Epic/Surescripts Marriage Delivers Secure Clinical Messaging
Nation's largest EHR vendor teams up with the e-prescribing network, enabling physicians to connect with docs who use different EHR systems.
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Two years after Surescripts announced its clinical interoperability network, the company that connects physician offices and pharmacies online has taken its biggest step yet beyond electronic prescribing by striking an agreement with Epic Systems, the largest EHR vendor. The companies are working together to link Epic's Care Everywhere platform to the Surescripts network. This will allow Epic users to send secure clinical messages with referrals, discharge summaries, and lab results to providers who use other kinds of EHRs.
The announcement comes on the heels of Surescript's acquisition of Kryptiq, the health information exchange vendor that supplies Surescripts' clinical messaging software. Surescripts bought a minority stake in Kryptiq two years ago when it launched its clinical interoperability network.
Today, about 390,000 office-based prescribers use Surescripts to transmit electronic prescriptions to pharmacies, according to the company. In addition, the retail clinics of the CVS and Walgreens pharmacy chains are using Surescripts' clinical network to send clinical summaries and, in the case of Walgreens, immunization data to primary care physicians. Surescripts is also involved in a grant program to transmit hospital lab data to public health agencies.
The Epic deal has the potential to increase the number of clinicians using the Surescripts clinical interoperability network. According to the Surescripts press release, "By the year 2013, medical information for 150 million patients, representing nearly 44% of the U.S. population, will be stored in an Epic digital record."
But as with any health information exchange, the value of the Surescripts network to Epic users will depend on how many physicians with non-Epic EHRs are participating. To date, GE is the only other EHR vendor that has obtained certification to use the Surescripts clinical interoperability network.
Epic, which does not give press interviews, has for some time enabled client groups and healthcare systems to exchange clinical data. But the vendor has been criticized for making it difficult to interface its EHR with other systems. So for Epic, the deal with Surescripts apparently represents a conscious effort to become more open to data exchange with non-Epic systems.
Surescripts could not tell InformationWeek Healthcare how many providers are using its clinical interoperability network today. Company spokesman Rob Cronin said that CVS and Walgreens would have to give permission to reveal the number of providers that are receiving clinical summaries from their retail clinics. And while Kryptiq claims to have more than 40,000 providers using its clinical messaging software, it's unclear how many are connecting with other providers via Surescripts.
Similarly, Surescripts says that it functions as a health information service provider (HISP) that can route clinical messages using the Direct securing messaging protocol. Furthermore, Cronin said, "we are providing these connections to a number of health information exchanges." But he was unable to provide more information at press time.
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