Organizations that link their IT systems to share electronic health records

Glory be. There’s good news tonight in American healthcare.

It did not come from laws, regulations, or government edict, although there has been much government activity in the field; it did not come from the behemoths of information technology like Google, Microsoft, Oracle or Cisco, although much hard work in IT did precede it; it did not come from the for-profit healthcare industry giants like GE, Big Pharma, United Healthcare, or Aetna, although many have talked a related good game for decades; and it did not come from the trade associations like AMA, AHA, AMIA, or even HIMSS.

It did come from the not-for-profit healthcare delivery sector. How fitting.

It is “The Care Connectivity Consortium”, comprised of Geisinger Health System of Pennsylvania, Kaiser Permanente of California, Intermountain Healthcare of Utah, Group Health Cooperative of Washington, and Mayo Clinic of Minnesota, Arizona, and Florida.

These five innovative and forward thinking organizations have announced that they will link their IT systems so that they will be able to securely exchange electronic health records.

They won’t compete; they will share.

Over time, Accountable Care Organizations encouraged by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act can do the same thing.

Interoperability has always been the key.

American entrepreneurialism has promulgated individuality. An old story, and in healthcare IT, a strategy that may win short term for some shareholders, but the country, patients, and the public health all lose.

I am old and unapologetically old-fashioned in some things. I still believe that medicine is a service profession and that the roots of hospitals as fundamentally charitable is still the right cultural mind set.

When the dust settles on the reform of the American healthcare system, if it ever does, the citizenry would be best served by a healthcare system of dozens of replicates or clones of the five organizations named in this revolutionary consortium.

Not only one, since excess bigness alone can be a grave handicap. But many, with similar evidence-based, service-oriented, cost-conscious, patient-centered, fundamentally ethical organizations of well educated, public-spirited individuals.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act and David Blumenthal’s massive efforts at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, nothing really propelled health IT interoperability except common sense and human decency.

Let’s hear it for the new Big 5. And, for the rest of healthcare, America, it is time to play “follow the leader”.

George Lundberg is a MedPage Today Editor-at-Large and former editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Originally published in MedPage Today. Visit for more health policy news.

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  • Robert B Porter

    I’m SHOCKED they formed this union voluntarily! My hat goes off to them, HOWEVER, the jury is still out on whether the BioPharma/Medical Device community will take advantage of such a union. If they do, there might be a little shake-up in the Electronic Data Capture community (Oracle, Medidata, PhaseFoward, SAS) To Be Continued…..

  • Robert B Porter

    WOW! Who knew HIPPA had a “backdoor”… Meaning this MD came REALLY close to breaking the law. And for the record, the large BioPharma drug companies DO have social media polices, and it closely mimics their confidential disclosure agreement (CDA) signed by the employee prior to start of employment. So indeed she didn’t break the law, but if she were employed by a drug/device company she would be terminated!
    That’s called “Cuttin it Close!”

  • Don Casey

    For completeness’ sake: Kaiser covers more than California; it has presence in Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Ohio, Georgia and the area around Washington DC.

    • Alice

      Yes, the Cleveland Clinic works with them and the IT is making a program that will allow Minute Clinic to access your records. Now the Minute Clinic accesses your insurance records. I believe Cleveland Clinic has Dr. Connect that let’s you control what the doctor outside their network can see. It needs more fine tuning (the Clinic allows doctors to opt out of sharing notes and tests via EMR/MyChart and many do…it makes it frustrating for the patient to have to request it, then pay and wait about a month if you pester them).

      Even with the quirks patients have more access, they understand their files better, and can study their disease and join support groups. An educated patient is an asset….knowing there will always be bullies…but information is powerful.

  • Nate Osit

    I think this illustrates the need for robust EHR systems capable of easily sharing data across systems. Interoperability can be a difficult task, but by having a centralized system for each location, it becomes easier for smaller, more niche systems to feed into the larger EHR, thus achieving the goal of data shared across organizations.

  • Pam Charney

    Interesting, and it sure would be nice if it would actually happen. I’m a clinical informatics specialist who happens to also be the parent of a child with significant medical issues. We are insured through one of the entities mentioned above. Half of my child’s care is provided by our primary insurer, half through a university-affiliated pediatric medical center. The pediatric medical center and our insurer (mentioned above as one of the wonderful folks who will “share” EMR data) do not share information. Therefore, we cross our fingers and hope, we fax, we call, we beg and plead, for information to go where it’s supposed to go.
    Maybe, just maybe this will work!

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