Electronic Health Records

Integration & Interoperability News

Health Information Exchange to Build on 2015 Advancements

"Driving adoption and use of health IT as well as advancing interoperability will continue be the biggest challenges to overcome."

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

- Interoperability and health information exchange are deeply intertwined. While advancing interoperability should enabled the more efficient exchange of health information, health data exchange is already taking place through the leveraging of various networks and standards.

Health information exchange and interoperability in 2015 and 2016

Surescripts is a recognized leader in HIE as well as a prominent force in expanding the use of electronic exchange of health information — including electronic prescribing of controlled substances and sharing of clinical records.

EHRIntelligence.com caught up with Mike Pritts, Executive Vice President of Product Innovation at Surescripts, to discuss the progress of HIE in 2015 and expectations for 2016 and beyond. As Pritts reveals, progress has been made and continues to be made in how healthcare organizations, providers, patients, and payers share health data. What's more, the challenges are as clear as the solutions to addressing them.

EHRIntelligence.com: What progress did HIE make in 2015?

Mike Pritts: Many positive and productive accomplishments have happened in 2015 for HIE. With CMS publishing its Stage 3 Meaningful Use final rule and certification final rule, as well as the ONC releasing the final version of its Interoperability Roadmap, the progress that has been made is leading us in the right direction. 2015 was also a great year for Surescripts in our contribution to interoperability.

READ MORE: New EHR Interoperability Framework Touted as Game-Changer

We launched National Record Locator Services (NRLS) which will allow our customers to utilize the technology to locate and exchange patient health records stored in any healthcare location across the country. In addition, Surescripts enabled improvement for medication adherence and found that those who were connected to the Surescripts network for more than five years were more likely to initiate medication history requests than those who were on it for less than five years, this attests to the value of an accurate, comprehensive medication record. 

Additionally our fully electronic prior authorization product, CompletEPA, went live, enabling our customers with automated and real-time processing prior authorizations. Lastly, a milestone occurred for electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS) when Vermont became the final state to legalize EPCS. We are excited that EPCS has received the recognition it deserves as a necessary step to combating drug diversion and increasing patient safety. All in all, we have a lot to be proud of for 2015.

Electronic prescribing of controlled substances at Surescripts

EHRI.com: What challenges remain for HIE in 2016, and how will they be removed?

MP: Driving adoption and use of health IT as well as advancing interoperability will continue be the biggest challenges to overcome. The ONC’s roadmap released in 2015 helped address specific areas that need to be confronted moving forward such as the consideration of regulatory options and accountability.

READ MORE: Maine Introduces E-Prescribing for Controlled Substances

Yet, there are a few critical areas in which we feel the industry and Surescripts must focus on in 2016 and beyond.  First, the enablement of access to patient information in real-time is vital for HIE. When providers have electronic access to a patient’s records at the point of care, including critical information like medication history, outcomes are improved and safety is increased. Another important challenge to focus on is enabling accountable care. By combining data from an array of healthcare participants, including pharmacies and PBMs, this ensures providers are operating with the timeliest, most prescriptive information possible. When caregivers have digital access to patient-specific cost and coverage information at the point of care, they are able to provide patients the medication they need, when they need it.

Lastly, we need to stay positive and focused in 2016 in order to remove the challenges facing HIE. We encourage all parts of the health care ecosystem to remain engaged in the dialogue around achieving the primary goal of improving patient care through industry interoperability.

Number of connected healthcare organizations at Surescripts

EHRI.com: How realistic is the ONC plan to connect all HIEs nationally in 2016?

MP: An interoperable healthcare system is a must in order to have a complete, digital picture of a patient’s health. At Surescripts, we congratulate the government for putting a framework in place to achieve interoperability, but the roadmap itself is part of the solution for interoperability. It is important for the government to continue to engage the industry and collect feedback from providers and technology vendors to ensure the pace and volume of change truly advances interoperability. Connecting the nation’s healthcare system is a monumental task, and while more work is needed to ensure true interoperability, the Surescripts network continues to be more connected than ever. 

READ MORE: Group Seeks Interoperability Changes in Meaningful Use Delay

Growing focus of interoperability at Surescripts

EHRI.com: What are the most common misconceptions about HIE?

MP: There are some common misconceptions about the lack of developed technology standards and policies as well as protocol related to data sharing. Health information exchange is happening today. We’ve seen the best use case through e-prescribing. E-prescribing is nearly ubiquitous, with 67 percent of all new prescriptions sent electronically. Fifty-six percent of physicians and 98 percent of pharmacies processed 1.2 billion electronic prescriptions in 2014.

Now, we are building on that foundation for other transactions, including clinical messaging, medication history, and electronic prior authorization. Surescripts sees great promise in our National Record Locator Service solution that was launched in 2015.

More than 2,000 provider organizations and over 100 major health systems representing more than 18 percent of all staffed beds in the country, and almost one million providers connect to the Surescripts network, and we are just one company in the healthcare ecosystem. The industry is clearly ready, we just need to keep progressing and moving forward to make true interoperability a reality.

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