Cerner enters health care information alliance

Six health care information technology entities, including Kansas City-based Cerner Corp., announced Monday that they have allied to create an independent, nonprofit trade association.

The goal of the new CommonWellHealth Alliance is to attain a common information technology platform — a “national infrastructure” — and common policies governing the sharing of patient records, consistent with privacy rules.

Planners say this expected “seamless interoperability” will help hold down rising health care costs.

Joining Cerner in the alliance are McKesson Corp., Allscripts, athenahealth Inc., Greenway Medical Technologies Inc., and RelayHealth, a McKesson affiliate.

Not included in the alliance is Epic Systems, the largest vendor in the electronic health records field and the major competitor of the other providers.

“Today’s announcement represents an inflection point in health care, with key industry leaders coming together to support the delivery of a national health information exchange,” said John Hammergren, McKesson’s chairman and chief executive, in prepared remarks.

The alliance was revealed in New Orleans at the 2013 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society annual meeting.

Cerner co-founder and CEO Neal Patterson said the alliance “is about setting aside the admittedly tough politics of this issue to do what is right for the health care consumer.”

The first test of the alliance’s interoperability will be in a local pilot within the next year, participants said.

The test will be designed to help health care providers “link and match patients as they transition through care facilities, regardless of the underlying software system,” to keep track of patient care records, and to help manage data-sharing consents and authorizations, the announcement said.

“This is good for care providers, for patients and for the country,” said Paul Black, president and CEO of Allscripts.

Tee Green, president and CEO of Greenway, said interoperability “fits the needs of a mobile society, just as providers are taking on more financial risk in coordinating care.”

Jonathan Bush, CEO of athenahealth, said the alliance was necessary to make interoperability work because, “The promise of the free flow of health information and the reality of it today are worlds apart.”

Planners said the alliance “will be open to all health information technology developers that are committed to making patient’s data available to themselves and providers regardless of where care occurs.”

Information about the alliance is available at