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Big EMR Vendors Agree To Interoperability Scheme

Posted on March 6, 2013 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 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.

John’s Comment: See my coverage of the CommonWell announcement on EMR and HIPAA.

Could it be that real interoperability between vendors is on the way? Five big EMR vendors — including three hospital-oriented giants and two doctor-focused players — have come together during HIMSS to announce plans to create common standards for health data sharing, reports Forbes.

Cerner, McKesson, Allscripts, athenahealth and Greenway Medical Technologies have joined to create a new non-profit called the CommonWell Health Alliance. (As most wags have noted, Epic is conspicuously absent from the mix.)

The partners haven’t disclosed a lot of detail as to how they plan to achieve interoperability amongst themselves, but the scheme seems to rely on creating a unique national ID. “Without a national ID and the ability to create true data that can be safely and securely sent between individuals, we are going to introduce new systemic risk back into the system,” Neal Patterson, founder, chairman and chief executive of Cerner told Forbes.

Patterson, public citizen that he is, said that the CommonWell Alliance isn’t a commercial effort but “an obligation.”  That certainly sounds lovely, but with five hyper-competitive public companies forming up this effort, I’m skeptical to say the least. Besides, if it’s an obligation, why isn’t Epic so obligated?

John Halamka, Chief Information Officer of Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center in Boston, has probably sniffed out more of partners’ true motivation. “They’re thinking of it as an enabler for new technologies,” Halamka suggests to Forbes, a move which can “raise the tide for all boats.”

Whether it raises any boats or not, creating interoperability links between these vendors certainly can’t hurt. After all, the more data sharing the better, particularly by major players with significant market share.

That being said, there’s still the matter of Epic being out of the picture, not to mention other major EMR players. How much of a practical difference the CommonWell Health Alliance can make is very much in question.

7 Tips to Help Improve EHR Etiquette

Posted on I Written By

Dr. West is an endocrinologist in private practice in Washington, DC. He completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. West opened The Washington Endocrine Clinic, PLLC in 2009. He can be contacted at

It’s been a while since I’ve written, but only because my practice has been booming lately and I’ve barely had a moment to breathe here in DC.  But I’m back now, and for who knows how long given the waves tossing on the sea of digital medical practice!

Patient engagement continues to be one of the most common complaints about EMR software.  There was even a mention of the frustrations in a previous post on Happy EMR Doctor.  Many physicians say that it interferes with patient interactions and that now most of their time is spent looking at a computer monitor and updating charts.  This causes frustration for all parties – patients and physicians – because doctors did not sign up for computer duty when they went to medical school and patients expect a doctor’s full attention during visits.

Software Advice, a website that reviews medical software, launched a survey on how to improve doctor-patient interactions in the EMR era and the results are finally in.  See below for the top seven tips received on maintaining quality relationships:

1. Position your computer between you and the patient:  No brainer here.  Face the patient during interactions.  Take the time to plan where your equipment will go so that this possible.

2. Invest in mobility:  Whether it’s a small rolling desk, small tablets or other lightweight tools, choose equipment that helps you move around.  A laptop may cost an extra buck but can be worth the investment.

3. Delegate as much as possible:  The objective is to interact with the patient as much as possible.  Have staff members enter the medical history, medications, prior procedures, etc. prior to the patient’s visit so you don’t have to during the appointment.

4. Dictate as much as possible:  Talk with the patient while scribes enter the information or use dictation software.  These allow you to focus more on the patient.

5. Ignore the computer when you first enter the room:  Chat with your patient for a few minute before you start recording information in the digital record.

6. Ask about previous complaints:  If the patient information is pre-loaded, look over it before entering the room. If they have open complaints, ask them about the issues to close them out in the emr. This reaffirms to the patient that you care.

7. Finish the chart in the room:  This can help to answer any other questions that might come up so patients feel like they have been listened to.

All in all, EMRs take some getting used to.  Once a physician develops a rhythm with the software, every patient interaction becomes easier.  Focus on the tasks as they come, and remember, practice makes perfect.