Surescripts attains digital breakthrough

'There is no question that the Surescripts network is more connected than ever before'
By Bernie Monegain
10:05 AM

Surescripts processed 6.5 billion health data transactions in 2014, a feat that the network's officials say marks a major digital transformation of U.S. healthcare.

Surescripts reports in its 2014 National Progress Report that its network handled more transactions over the past year than American Express (6 billion) and PayPal (4.2 billion).

"Connecting the nation’s healthcare system is a monumental task, and while more work is needed to ensure true interoperability nationwide, there is no question that the Surescripts network is more connected than ever before," said Surescripts CEO Tom Skelton, in a press statement. "Healthcare is evolving and our collective ability to share health information is addressing a major pain point for providers and patients that ultimately saves time and money and improves the quality of care."

Here are connections made by the numbers: At of the end of 2014, Surescripts connected 900,000 healthcare professionals, 61,000 pharmacies, 3,300 hospitals, 700 EHR software applications, 45 immunization registries, and 32 state and regional networks, with access to health information for 230 million patients representing 71 percent of the U.S. population.

In 2014, 56 percent of physicians and 95 percent of pharmacies processed 1.2 billion electronic prescriptions on the Surescripts network. That number includes 67 percent of all new prescriptions.

[See also: Surescripts in connectivity mode]

Beyond prescriptions
Growth on the Surescripts network expanded beyond electronic prescribing to include 764 million medication history transactions and 7.4 million clinical messages. Much of the growth in the utilization of medication history data occurred in hospitals, with 44 percentv of U.S. hospitals adopting the technology. Utilization of medication history data in acute care settings, such as hospital emergency rooms, increased 75 percent over 2013.

Over the past three years, Surescripts has built the largest physician directory with more than 160,000 providers connected to exchange clinical messages, such as discharge and visit summaries, patient charts and referral orders. This capability helps hospitals meet regulatory requirements and improves patient outcomes, officials say. The volume of clinical messages that passed through the Surescripts network last year increased 1,300 percent over 2013.

"Thousands of patients come through our doors each day," said Chuck Fennell, Chief Information Officer, St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center, in a news release. "In order to know we are providing the best care, we need to understand their health histories and communicate with other care partners in a timely manner. The most efficient way to meet that goal is to communicate electronically."

[See also: Surescripts boosts Epic interoperability]

Fighting fraud and abuse
One area where the Surescripts network can play a significant role is addressing prescription fraud and abuse nationwide, particularly the more than two million Americans who abuse prescription painkillers, say Surescripts executives. Eliminating the paper prescription and connecting physicians and pharmacists electronically, is a way to tackle those issues, they say.

"I see the physical and emotional toll that opioid abuse takes on patients and their families every day in the emergency room. E-prescribing can be an effective tool in fighting that abuse,” said Sean Kelly, MD. Kelly, CMO at Imprivata and an emergency physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, says physicians are eager to embrace technology – "as long as it is good technology that speeds our workflows and allows us to make better informed decisions that increase patient safety."

[See also: Walgreens, Surescripts connect]

In the report, Surescripts ranks each state on its readiness to prescribe controlled substances electronically. The ranking is based on three factors: the percent of enabled pharmacies, the percent of enabled prescribers, and the percent of controlled substances prescribed electronically, in each state.

Top 10 States e-prescribing controlled substances:
1.    Nebraska
2.    California
3.    Michigan
4.    Massachusetts
5.    Delaware
6.    Illinois
7.    Iowa
8.    Rhode Island
9.    Arizona
10.  Minnesota

E-prescribing of controlled substances increased 400 percent in 2014, with a total of 1.67 million controlled substance e-prescriptions nationwide. Bur adoption among providers is still low, according to the Surescripts report. Across the country, 73 percent of pharmacies are ready to receive electronic prescriptions for controlled substances, but the number of prescribers who are ready to send them is just 1.4 percent.

Read Surescripts' 2014 National Progress Report here.