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Tuesday February 28, 2023  |  Luke Marinac

Advancing Interoperability in the Age of TEFCA: An Interview with CommonWell's Executive Director, Paul Wilder: Part 1

2023 is the 10th Anniversary of CommonWell Health Alliance, a ground-breaking non-profit trade alliance of over 70 companies working in the health IT marketplace to advance interoperability nationwide. During the last decade, CommonWell has played a pivotal role in uniting healthcare organizations and industry leaders in pursuit of that goal.

As a proud member of the Alliance, we're delighted to share an exclusive Q&A with Paul Wilder, Executive Director of CommonWell. In part one of this interview, he delves into the mission of CommonWell and how it's helping innovators come together to break down barriers to better patient outcomes.

MEDHOST: Tell us about yourself and the CommonWell Health Alliance.   

Paul Wilder: CommonWell has been around since 2013 with the mission of making healthcare interoperability ubiquitous across the country.

I first came to appreciate the importance of interoperability when my daughter was born. A few days after we got her home, she started encountering some common health difficulties. We visited with our local pediatrician, and they determined that she needed to be re-admitted.

We rushed to the nearest hospital in New Jersey, where we were living at the time. But after she was admitted, we learned too late that none of her data could be transferred from the New York hospital where she was born. Without access to that information, the doctors had to put my daughter through a battery of tests to re-assess her condition, including a painful spinal tap.

So, for me, what it always comes back to is, “What do you care about?” At that point, I started working in HIE and records management with the New York eHealth Collaborative, and I eventually made my way to CommonWell.

Today, we have 34,000 connected provider sites, 192,000,000 patients, and 150 million documents moving between providers every month.

The purpose of all of this is to make it so that no one has to go through something like that ever again.

MEDHOST: There are multiple patient portals available in the market, and it seems like almost every hospital has one.

In your experience, do patients know they have access to these resources?

Paul Wilder: If you go back to the early days of Meaningful Use, patient portals were a feature that healthcare providers had to provide, but there was no requirement to demonstrate widespread adoption.

The original compliance measure was the number of times a patient asked for a patient portal log in, and how many times you, as a provider, could furnish that information. At that time, providers could score 0/0 and still be compliant if a patient never asked.

So, what did providers do? They just never advertised that the patient portal existed.

What we're seeing over time, though, is that more facilities are starting to see the benefit of encouraging their patients to use these portals.

In particular, having a place for things like notes and documentation to live is emerging as a real value driver for providers. For instance, a physician doesn’t have to write things down as much, they can put it in the patient notes in the portal, and the patient can access that anywhere.

We are starting to see some pushback on the communication part of these programs: “How much is that going to be used?”, “How do I get paid for this engagement?” And I think that's a legitimate concern as physicians are expected to be more accessible while maintaining margins.

That being said, patient-mediated care is necessary to bend the quality-cost curve. We need patients to be more aware of how to be healthy and they need to be able to get their full set of data.

MEDHOST: What sets CommonWell apart from other health data exchange vendors?

Paul Wilder: The first thing I’d touch on is scale.

Having a record locator is not unique. It’s the size of our record locator that sets us apart. It’s massive. With close to 200 million unique individuals, we cover nearly three-fourths of the adult population in this country.

The other big difference is our governance. We’re led by a diverse set of members with different interests, yet we’re still able to pursue this common mission.

We can walk into the same room, we’ve got our company badge in the pocket, and we can have that dialogue to further interoperability—then we can put those badges back on and bring it back to the product.

That’s pretty amazing to me.

MEDHOST: We’ve certainly felt that. During these summits, there are vendors that are competing in the same market. But when we got into that room, there was a prevailing comradery around solving these deeper problems of interoperability.

Check back here for part two, where we’ll discuss some challenges facing interoperability, like the secure exchange of patient health data and reducing data overload for physicians.

To learn more about how MEDHOST partners with CommonWell to help create a more interoperable care network, email or call us at 1.800.383.6278.

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