CommonWell Health Alliance and Carequality, two of the leaders in advancing data exchange, have agreed to connect their networks.

Under the agreement, CommonWell will become a Carequality implementer on behalf of its members and their clients, enabling CommonWell subscribers to engage in data exchange through directed queries with any Carequality participant, according to a news release. Carequality will work with CommonWell to make a Carequality compliant version of the CommonWell record locator service available to any provider organization participating in Carequality. CommonWell and the Sequoia Project, the parent under which Carequality operates, will also explore additional collaborative opportunities in the future.

The two organizations had previously been seen as competitive, with Epic under the Carequality Interoperability Framework and Cerner a founding member of the CommonWell Health Alliance.

“It’s like the banks with their ATMs, or wireless networks. There are lots of players jousting for the dominant industry paradigm, and at some point they realized that they are all here to stay,” says Micky Tripathi, President and CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, a member of the Board of directors for the Sequoia Project, and publicly involved with both networks. The increased demand from providers for more interoperability was also a factor in the entities’ decision to band together.

The two organizations are structured differently. CommonWell’s queries are patient-centric; they match patient records in its central record locator service. Carequality is provider-centric; one queries a particular provider for records. 

The new relationship will decouple CommonWell’s patient query and record locator components, so the record locator service will be an additional service that one can purchase.

Together, CommonWell members and Carequality participants represent more than 90 percent of the acute electronic health record market and nearly 60 percent of the ambulatory EHR market. 

Tripathi expects a pilot to be operating in the first half of 2017 and the initiative in full production by the end of 2017 or the beginning of 2018.

Tripathi says that while the federal government spurred data exchange by funding basic health information exchange research, it’s hard for the government to work nimbly considering the rapid changes in business and technology as well as the heterogeneity of the country.

“There’s now a high enough degree of maturity so that the private sector can run with it,” he says.

“I hope we will look back on this and see this was a real turning point in the industry and open the floodgates that help providers and patients,” he adds.