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AMA Promotes Common Model For Health Data Organization

Posted on October 24, 2017 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

What do we really need to make the best use of shared patient data?  Some say that once we have adequate data sharing protocols in place (such as FHIR or Direct), organizing and using the data will be well within our capabilities. Other efforts assume that if we pulled together the right common data set, deciding how to exchange the data physically won’t be as big of an issue as it has been.

A new initiative from the American Medical Association seems to fall into the latter category The AMA has announced that it’s created a common data model which it says is missing in healthcare. The Integrated Health Model Initiative (IHMI), which has attracted the support of heavy hitters like IBM and Cerner, is a “shared framework for organizing health data, emphasizing patient-centric information, and refining data elements to those most predictive of achieving better outcomes,” according to an AMA statement.

The AMA and its partners said that the new model will include clinically-validated data elements which it says can speed up the development of improved data organization, management and analytics. Its initial focus will be on costly chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and asthma.

The effort will include technical development efforts which will address interoperability problems, cumbersome or inadequate data structures and poor interface designs which forced physicians to click far too often, the trade group said.

From my standpoint, there’s a lot that’s hazy about this announcement, which was long on form but pretty short on substance.

For one thing, it’s not clear what Cerner, in particular, is getting out of this effort. It’s already an anchor member of the CommonWell Health Alliance which, having merged with rival group Carequality, arguably offers as mature an interoperability model as any out there today. Also, while even a giant like IBM needs continued press attention, I’m not sure how much benefit it will realize here.

Not only that, it’s hard to tell where the AMA and partners will take IHMI. The trade group has posted a set of data model specifications to its site. The group has also created a process wherein physicians review data elements and missions and decide whether they meet clinical applicability and consistency requirements. In addition, it’s creating technical and clinical communities focused on key sub-areas of interest. But it’s still not clear what all of this means and why it’s important.

Ultimately, the initial press release is as much a buzzword cloud as it is a statement of intent. Pardon my cynicism, but I doubt even a group with the AMA’s clout can fix interoperability problems, streamline data structures and foster more elegant UI design in health IT in one fell swoop.

The announcement does do something useful regardless, however. While I’m not personally qualified to say whether it will take universally accepted standards for data exchange, a widely-used reference set for health data or both, I believe someone should address these questions. As proposed interoperability solutions pop up on both sides, perhaps we’ll get some answers.

 

Rival Interoperability Groups Connect To Share Health Data

Posted on December 27, 2016 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @ziegerhealth on Twitter or visit her site at Zieger Healthcare.

Two formerly competitive health data interoperability groups have agreed to work together to share data with each others’ members. CommonWell Health Alliance, which made waves when it included Cerner but not Epic in its membership, has agreed to share data with Carequality, of which Epic is a part. (Of course, Epic said that it chose not to participate in the former group, but let’s not get off track with inside baseball here!)

Anyway, CommonWell was founded in early 2013 by a group of six health IT vendors (Cerner, McKesson, Allscripts, athenahealth, Greenway Medical Technologies and RelayHealth.) Carequality, for its part, launched in January of this year, with Epic, eClinicalWorks, NextGen Healthcare and Surescripts on board.

Under the terms of the deal, the two will shake hands and play nicely together. The effort will seemingly be assisted by The Sequoia Project, the nonprofit parent under which Carequality operates.

The Sequoia Project brings plenty of experience to the table, as it operates eHealth Exchange, a national health information network. Its members include the AMA, Kaiser Permanente, CVS’s Minute Clinic, Walgreens and Surescripts, while CommonWell is largely vendor-focused.

As things stand, CommonWell runs a health data sharing network allowing for cross-vendor nationwide data exchange. Its services include patient ID management, record location and query/retrieve broker services which enable providers to locate multiple records for patient using a single query.

Carequality, for its part, offers a framework which supports interoperability between health data sharing network and service providers. Its members include payer networks, vendor networks, ACOs, personal health record and consumer services.

Going forward, CommonWell will allow its subscribers to share health information through directed queries with any Carequality participant.  Meanwhile, Carequality will create a version of the CommonWell record locator service and make it available to any of its providers.

Once the record-sharing agreement is fully implemented, it should have wide ranging effects. According to The Sequoia Project, CommonWell and Carequality participants cut across more than 90% of the acute EHR market, and nearly 60% of the ambulatory EHR market. Over 15,000 hospitals clinics and other healthcare providers are actively using the Carequality framework or CommonWell network.

But as with any interoperability project, the devil will be in the details. While cross-group cooperation sounds good, my guess is that it will take quite a while for both groups to roll out production versions of their new data sharing technologies.

It’s hard for me to imagine any scenario in which the two won’t engage in some internecine sniping over how to get this done. After all, people have a psychological investment in their chosen interoperability approach – so I’d be astonished if the two teams don’t have, let’s say, heated discussions over how to resolve their technical differences. After all, it’s human factors like these which always seem to slow other worthy efforts.

Still, on the whole I’d say that if it works, this deal is good for health IT. More cooperation is definitely better than less.