Can CommonWell’s Cold Fusion Bring The Heat?

Adam Gale, President, KLAS

Adam Gale, President, KLAS

It is hard not to cheer for the ideals of the CommonWell Health Alliance. For over 15 years, KLAS has interviewed thousands of providers who have bemoaned the lack of data integration and sharing in healthcare. With the combined resources of six firms, is CommonWell the first step toward true data integration? While it is admittedly too early to report on the success of such a new endeavor, what is the market reaction to this announcement?

To date, most provider feedback on the announcement has either been quiet or negative. On the surface, this might be surprising given providers’ chronic frustration with the lack of data sharing. However, providers have good reason to be pessimistic: history. Vendors have been struggling with the problem of integration for almost as long as electronic medical records have been in existence. One CIO interviewed by KLAS highlighted the concerns of many when he said, “[My vendor] is struggling to get their own systems integrated or even well interfaced. I can’t imagine that an effort like this would work better across several vendors.”

To summarize provider opinion to date, the ideas espoused by CommonWell are being perceived by many in the HIT community in the same light that cold fusion is viewed in the energy industry — as a wonderful dream you can’t help but cheer for but that you wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for. Anyone who says they don’t support cold fusion might be considered an energy Grinch. Who wouldn’t welcome an energy revolution that results in clean, renewable energy, or a world where data from every health facility can integrate with data from every other facility?

Likewise, it would be coldhearted to say that you don’t support the ideals of CommonWell. If this vision is able to become a reality, it could change the face of healthcare almost immediately. However, history has taught us that attaining integration is harder than it might appear. Many large, resource-rich vendors have failed to bring significant integration to multiple products they have acquired. (We won’t name names because we don’t need to.)

On the other hand, in the course of our research, KLAS has reviewed a few vendors who have been reported by users as having integrated different clinical products seamlessly, and KLAS has even reviewed one or two vendors that have integrated more than two significant clinical systems with great success. Maybe healthcare integration isn’t cold fusion after all.

If cold fusion were discovered tomorrow, the skeptics would go down in history as pessimists, while those who pioneered the innovation would be hailed as visionary heroes. The same can be said for CommonWell — wouldn’t we all be excited to see the naysayers’ pessimism go unfounded? Whatever happens, KLAS will be right there to measure any real progress, and as always, we will cheer for any group that actually improves healthcare. Shouldn’t you?

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