EHR Vendors, Pharmacy Chains Pump Up Surescripts Network
Pharmacies' use of Surescripts to send immunization notices to doctors signals growing effort to develop nationwide interoperability.
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The Rite Aid pharmacy chain, which has more than 4,600 stores, has joined Walgreens in using the Surescripts Network for Clinical Interoperability to send patient immunization notifications to primary care physicians. Although this is a limited area of health information exchange, Surescripts is starting to show it has the capacity to become a national information network.
The pharmacy chains can transmit the immunization notices electronically to practices that have electronic health record systems from Epic, NextGen, GE and some other vendors that have joined the Surescripts network. Surescripts sends the notices to other practices by fax or mail, noted Leo D'Acierno, the company's network executive, in an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare. "So from the pharmacy perspective, they have complete reach across all the MDs they would need to connect to," he said.
D'Acierno predicted that more EHR vendors would build interfaces with Surescripts in the near future. Meanwhile, he said, the company is in the early stages of rolling out a Web portal that will allow practices to access immunization data from pharmacies. The statewide health information exchange in Illinois, he said, is already using the Surescripts portal "as a lightweight means of communication among their members."
The next step for Surescripts is to use its network to transmit visit summaries from Take Care retail clinics to physicians. Walgreens' 350 Take Care retail outlets forward immunization notices to practices via Surescripts, and they're expected to send visit summaries the same way soon. "We're in the process of expanding this so that a clinic visit summary can move through the same channels [as immunization notices]," said D'Acierno.
CVS' 600 Minute Clinics already can send visit summaries to physicians, according to a Surescripts spokeswoman. The big pharmacy chain and its retail clinic subsidiary are in discussions with Surescripts about the rollout of additional services, she said. Minute Clinic helped Surescripts pilot its interoperability network a few years ago.
Currently, Surescripts provides bidirectional information exchange to pharmacies only in electronic prescribing. But D'Acierno noted that two-way exchange of data between pharmacies and retail clinics and physician practices is on his company's roadmap.
Rite Aid and Walgreens also plan to use Surescripts to send immunization data online to immunization registries at state public health agencies. "We've been building out our stock of the state registries we can reach, and by early next year we will be able to reach the bulk of those registries," D'Acierno said.
Meanwhile, 650 hospital labs are in the process of using Surescripts to connect to public health agencies under a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that has been extended to September 2013, the Surescripts representative said. Physicians also are using the network for physician-to-physician communication and care coordination, D'Acierno noted.
Surescripts is best known as the company that enables physician practices to send electronic prescriptions online to most U.S. pharmacies. It developed its interoperability network with the help of connectivity vendor Kryptiq, which Surescripts acquired recently.
Launched in 2010, the interoperability network has gained traction this year as the pharmacy chains have come onboard and heavy-hitting EHR vendors Epic and NextGen have joined the network. Some observers even believe that Surescripts has a greater capability to expand into a national health information exchange than does the eHealth Exchange, formerly known as the Nationwide Health Information Network (NwHIN) Exchange.
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