Walgreens, Surescripts connect

By Bernie Monegain
11:26 AM
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Patient data from Walgreens to travel to docs on Surescripts network

Walgreens will use e-prescribing network Surescripts' Clinical Interoperability services to electronically deliver patient data directly to primary care providers. The intent, say Walgreens officials, who announced the plan last month, is to improve the coordination of care.

All 7,800 Walgreens and Duane Reade pharmacies and 350 Take Care Clinics nationwide will use the Surescripts network to deliver immunization records to the patients' primary care providers. Later this year, Walgreens will also use the Surescripts network to provide immunization reporting to state and local public health agencies, and Take Care Clinic patient summaries to the patients' primary care providers.

“Currently, Walgreens pharmacists and Take Care Health providers can submit these patient records to physicians by fax or traditional mail," said Jeffrey Kang, MD, senior vice president of health and wellness services and solutions for Walgreens. "By using Surescripts’ network to provide this important information electronically, we can improve the care that patients receive by making it easier for providers to compile more complete medical histories for their patients. We know how difficult it is for patients to remember which immunizations they’ve had and when. This will help physicians have a more thorough healthcare conversation with their patients.”

In the 2011-2012 flu season, more than 27,000 certified immunizing pharmacists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants at Walgreens and Duane Reade pharmacies and Take Care Clinics so far have administered more than 5.5 million immunizations.

Now, Walgreens will have the ability to electronically send a record of customers’ immunizations to their primary care provider. For those who opt into the service, Surescripts will use a standard format to capture immunization details and send the record to the patient’s primary care provider in whatever form the provider is able to receive it – electronically or via fax or mail. Physicians using a Surescripts certified electronic health record would have the option of receiving immunization records via the Surescripts Clinical Interoperability Network.

A recent survey of 400 physicians by Surescripts illustrated the challenge of compiling more complete medical records: 39 percent responded that they are frequently missing immunization records during patient visits; 35 percent are often missing patient summaries.

“Pharmacies continue to lead by example in their efforts to connect care and enable healthcare providers to share and access clinical information when and where it is needed,” said Harry Totonis, president and CEO of Surescripts. “Today, Surescripts is the largest, neutral, national network for clinical messaging. This is the latest example of how Surescripts is connecting healthcare, supporting meaningful use and enabling pharmacies to support improvements in care, safety, cost and health outcomes.”

The advance of clinical interoperability plays a central role in a number of national healthcare initiatives, such as improving continuity of care; supporting the meaningful use of electronic health records; and advancing the patient-centered medical home model of care.

The Surescripts Clinical Interoperability Network supports all federal and state policies and standards for health information exchange, including privacy and security standards, such as HIPAA and state law; technology interoperability standards, such as Direct; and message types, such as HL7.

The Surescripts Clinical Interoperability Network has provided electronic, fax and mail communication services for other pharmacy clinics since 2008. The service is also being rolled out to 500 hospital labs to connect to public health under a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and is also being used by physicians for physician-to-physician communication and care coordination.