- EHR interoperability received a shot in the arm with the decision by Surescripts to offer EHR vendors free access to its proprietary service for locating patient records over the next three years.
The health information network made the announcement midweek that EHR vendors would have free access to the National Record Locator Service (NRLS) until 2019 as a means of advancing interoperability of EHR technology.
“Surescripts is proud to take a leading role in this landmark effort to scale interoperability nationwide by leveraging our innovative network capabilities and data assets, because we recognize the urgent need to enhance patient safety and care quality,” Surescripts CEO Tom Skelton said in public statement. “We are committed to working with all vendors to accelerate the adoption of record locator and exchange, while adding valuable new services to make meaningful health information available to providers.”
Several EHR vendors have already signed on to give EHR users access to the NRLS functionality — most notably eClinicalWorks, Epic Systems, and NextGen Healthcare. Along with Surescripts, those EHR companies were instrumental in operationalizing the Carequality Interoperability Framework to enable health information exchange at more than 3,000 clinics and 200 hospitals over the course of the year.
"Many of the patients served by our National Record Locator Service have dozens and even hundreds of visits in their care histories, so we know these patients are suffering from complex medical issues that represent a large portion of healthcare costs," Skelton said last month. "By implementing NRLS according to the Carequality framework, we are enabling immediate scale and connectivity based on patient-centric information, so providers can make more informed and higher quality care decisions."
Since the August announcement of the Carequality milestone, health data exchange has grown among implementers of the framework as Epic's Vice President of Interoperability Peter DeVault recently told HealthITInteroperability.com.
"Our numbers — as well as the numbers of other vendors that have participated in the Carequality framework — have significantly increased even in the couple of weeks since the press release," he explained. "Today we have, just among our own customers, over 300 hospitals and 6,600 clinics connected to any other Carequality participants."
By making its service for locating patient records more widely available, Surescripts is hoping to bring the healthcare industry closer to true interoperability. For its own part, the health information network enabled 9.7 billion health data exchanges in 2015, a 48-percent increase over 2014. Additionally, more than one million healthcare professionals connected to the health information network to access health data on more than 240 million patients. In its annual progress report, Surescripts credited its early adoption of an NRLS as a key enabler to moving patient records securely between sites of care.
Elsewhere in health data exchange
The participants in a new information sharing pilot in Montana hope to take health data exchange nationwide.
Zach Benoit of The Billing Gazette reports that St. Vincent Healthcare, Billings Clinic and RiverStone Health have signed on with the state's largest payer Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana to create a health information exchange.
To be launch this fall, the HIE looks to succeed where a previous state-level attempt called HealthShare Montana had previously failed.
"Everybody’s coming to the clear realization that information is essential to decision making," BCBM Medical Director Jonathan Griffin, MD, MHA, said in the report. "Health information is fragmented. If you go to the doctor in one clinic and then you show up in another clinic, you have to repeat all of the same information. No one knows your history when you move from place to place."
The new HIE will rely systems developed by MyHealth Access Network to support health data exchange efforts in Oklahoma.