Walgreen Co. has begun using Surescripts’ clinical interoperability to electronically deliver patient data to primary care providers and better coordinate care.

Walgreens, Surescripts, clinical interoperability, immunization records, primary care providers, Duane Reade, pharmacies, patient summaries, Don Huonker, health information, patient records, Jeffrey Kang, electronic health record, Criss Ross, pharmacy services, medication therapy, Geoff Walden

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Inside This Issue - News

Next frontier reached in use of patient data

March 26th, 2012

DEERFIELD, Ill. – Walgreen Co. has begun using Surescripts’ clinical interoperability to electronically deliver patient data to primary care providers and better coordinate care.

In the coming months all 7,800 Walgreens and Duane Reade pharmacies and 350 Take Care Clinics will use the Surescripts network to transmit immunization records.

Later this year the chain will also use the network to deliver immunization reporting to state and local public health agencies, and Take Care Clinic patient summaries to primary care providers.

“This is really the next frontier,” says Walgreens senior vice president of process improvement Don Huonker.

Clinical interoperability is at its core a means of providing health information to a doctor at the point of care and improving outcomes through continuity of care, adds Huonker, who is also co-chairman of Surescripts.

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

Before now, pharmacists at Walgreens and other chains, and at clinic providers, could submit patient records to physicians by fax or traditional mail. For those who opt in to the new 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.

“We know how difficult it is for patients to remember which immunizations they’ve had and when,” says Dr. Jeffrey Kang, senior vice president of health and wellness services and solutions at Walgreens. “This will help physicians have a more thorough health care conversation with their patients.”

Because Surescripts has over 300 electronic health record products connected to its network, it has become one of largest clinical networks worldwide, transmitting 3 billion transactions a year.

“It made sense for us to leverage that,” says Cris Ross, Surescripts’ executive vice president and general manager for clinical interoperability services. “Pharmacy and PBMs have a strong interest in connecting to the point of care.”

While Surescripts is excited about expanding Walgreens’ spectrum of services, Ross says the initiative has implications beyond one retailer.

“This is part of a bigger picture about all of the federal incentives and regulations to drive adoption of electronic health records by physicians and connectivity. Even though those regulations and incentives didn’t focus on pharmacy, we’re happy to be doing this to make pharmacy a complete and integrated part of the whole.”

The ultimate goal is to give pharmacists and physicians “bidirectional communication” to coordinate and improve care, he says. Dialogues could be around medication therapy management or future pharmacy services.

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

Huonker sees clinical interoperability as an expandable platform capable of broadening the role of pharmacy in health care.

“As pharmacies see the value in sending immunization rec­ords and patient care summaries,” he says, “they’re going to come up with other use cases. They’re going to want other types of clinical information to be shared. This is just the beginning of a whole portfolio of messages that can run over the network and, at the end of the day, enable pharmacy and enable better outcomes for our patients.”

He adds that clinical interoperability is available to other chains. “We encourage all the pharmacies to join this network. We want them to because then it becomes the platform for pharmacy.”