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Surescripts adds 19 information exchanges to its network


By Joseph Conn
Posted: August 13, 2013 - 3:15 pm ET
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Surescripts, the for-profit electronic prescription network owned by pharmacy associations and pharmacy benefit management companies, is adding 19 state, regional and private health information exchanges to its portfolio of heath information exchange services.

It is yet another recent example of the use of the federally sponsored Direct messaging protocol deployed through HIEs in the run-up to implementation of stage 2 meaningful use criteria under the federal incentive program for electronic health records.

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“The continued growth of the Surescripts network is driven by the fact that healthcare communities are realizing that electronic health information exchange is necessary to transform the way healthcare is delivered at the patient level and the increasingly rapid implementation of the federal government's meaningful use guidelines,” Surescripts CEO Harry Totonis said in a news release.

Surescripts, based in Arlington, Va., was founded in 2001 by the two major retail pharmacy associations to promote electronic prescribing. It merged in 2008 with its rival network, RxHub, which was created by three major pharmacy benefit management companies. The merged company retained the name Surescripts and split interests in the new company 50/50 between the two ownership groups.

In its 2012 annual report Surescripts claims about 44% of all prescriptions dispensed that year were written by e-prescribers, up from 38% a year earlier.

But the technical standards for moving prescriptions are different from those for other types of clinical messages. As far back as 2009, Surescripts began broadening it base with the sale of prescription histories and as a carrier of patient summaries using the Continuity of Care record format.

Surescripts plans to use the Direct protocol for the new messaging services to the HIEs. Direct is a federally sponsored initiative to create an easy-to-use, basic messaging service via encrypted e-mail to achieve long elusive interoperability between healthcare providers. While Direct was designed primarily for “peer-to-peer” communications between providers, it is being added to the quiver of services of state and regional health information exchange organizations for a variety of uses. But its most likely function in the near-term is as a tool physicians and hospitals will use to meet the interoperability requirements under Stage 2 of the EHR incentive payment program created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Stage 2 requirements kick in for some hospitals—those that have met Stage 1 requirements for two years—as early as Oct. 1, and for some physicians and other eligible professionals—also with two years at Stage 1 under their belts—on Jan. 1, 2014.

“The Surescripts network helps us break down technical barriers and provides a secure and reliable solution to maintain continuity of care across healthcare providers and organizations in our state and beyond,” said Jeff Livesay, associate director of the Michigan Health Information Network, one of the newest partners, in the release.

Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn


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