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RED HOT Contributors


Episode 30 – The Big ‘Connector’ in Health Care


Jitin Asnaani has always carried an innate sense of passion and purpose. He’s gravitated to roles and opportunities pitting him against hard, interesting problems deemed ‘worth solving’. These include juice-flowing endeavors such as ecology, renewable energy, and of course health care.

He refers to these challenges as blending both a ‘bleeding heart’ and a ‘bleeding edge’.

Asnaani is now the Executive Director for the non-profit CommonWell Health Alliance. A growing non-profit effort, whose member growth is skyrocketing. Their goal is to deliver full health data interoperability into the U.S. health system. CommonWell’s efforts have proven fruitful thus far – capturing nearly two-thirds of the acute care EHR and one-third of the national ambulatory markets.

The value of this mission cannot be understated. As our healthcare system moves into outcome-based care, greater risk comes to providers and hospitals. Beyond the need for reimbursement, providers must demonstrate quality of care improvement, efficiency increases, effective multi-party care coordination of chronic conditions, as well as greater patient satisfaction.

Patient data and mass availability, is much like the freedom an artist has to paint a masterpiece with many unique colors on their palette. Expectations of improved care must include the ability for patients to have their data follow them, over time and location of care rendered.

It can hardly be overstated, how profit motives of EHR and other software companies have kept data interoperability from growing. Can you imagine the nerve of these organizations that for years, by their purposely design, held patient data captive while disarmed caregivers had to make critical decisions for emergency and chronic care cases?

CommonWell and others lead a major initiative to change the data sharing landscape in our health system. They have my vote and my sincere appreciation. Well Done!

In this Red Hot Healthcare episode, Dr. Steve and Jitin discuss:

  • His passion and efforts to causes with a ‘bleeding heart AND a bleeding edge’
  • Why CommonWell began – and its driving mission
  • Eyes now opening to the effect of connected data (and missing data) on front line care and patient results
  • The working environment of today’s interoperability standards and efforts.
  • Why making interoperability the law MAY NOT be the best thing

Below is a short transcript snippet for this powerful listen. 

[on CommonWell’s beginning]

DR. STEVE: “So let’s get into CommonWell. This is an effort that is four years old now – and the focus is on universal interoperability between IT health vendors, providers, care services, and patients. Tell us why this came around, and the challenges that CommonWell addresses.”

JITIN: “If you think about health care today, there are healthcare providers, who are often forced to work within the data that they get from their patient during a visit. As a patient…as a caregiver…you know that you simply are not getting the best levels of data to get the best results.

If you distill all of this Steve, it really comes down to a lack of empowerment. We’ve just come to accept it – and that’s really sad. This is the reason that CommonWell was formed.

Allowing providers greater control…and providing empowerment…this is the mission of CommonWell, and how we see more improvements in care coming in our future.”


DR. STEVE: “What are some of the challenges you’re running into, in terms of why health organizations are reluctant to join CommonWell?”

JITIN: “There is a maturity curve here that’s in play. I remember in my days at the ONC [The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology], as I surveyed the landscape of EHR vendors. The degree to which they were interoperable was generally abysmal.

Now that I’ve been at CommonWell, I’ve had the ability to speak to the top 30 EHR vendors. You can clearly see a breakdown of those who have joined, and others who are fitting joining into their other priorities. A few who won’t join because they make their money selling interfaces – and joining would interfere with their business model.

The post-acute space is where we’ve seen a lot of growth recently. A large part of this has come from the shift to more accountable care and value-based payments. Especially in the case where many of these patients receive care in outpatient skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, and rehab centers.

Steve, a similar story could be said of the consumers themselves. The biggest uptick in CommonWell’s services, in terms of new organizations joining, has come from the PHR [personal health record]and consumer-facing market.

This is the result of consumers having more of a say and control in their health care. In the past, when they paid less personally for their care, this wasn’t the case. However, today people are being pushed to better understand their choices – and this is why having access to their data is so important”


 I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with Steve Ambrose on a podcast that covered a range of topics in healthcare information technology. The podcast logistics – communications, interview questions, scheduling and production – were every well managed.
A great experience that I would do again in an instance.

Dr. John Glaser
SVP, Population Health at CERNER

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