Walgreen Co. plans to use Surescripts' Clinical Interoperability services to electronically send patient data directly to primary care providers, with the goal of improving the coordination of care.

Walgreens, Surescripts, Surescripts Clinical Interoperability Network, patient data, immunizations, immunization records, Duane Reade, Take Care Clinics, primary care providers, immunization reporting, Walgreens pharmacists, Jeffrey Kang, Harry Totonis, medical histories, electronic health records, clinical interoperability, health care system

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Walgreens to use Surescripts clinical network for immunizations

March 12th, 2012

DEERFIELD, Ill., and ARLINGTON, Va. – Walgreen Co. plans to use Surescripts' Clinical Interoperability services to electronically send patient data directly to primary care providers, with the goal of improving the coordination of care.

Walgreens and Surescripts said Monday that in the coming months the drug chain's 7,800-plus stores, under the Walgreens and Duane Reade banners, and its 350 Take Care Clinic retail health clinics nationwide will begin using the Surescripts network to deliver immunization records to patients' primary care providers.

Later this year, Walgreens also is slated to use the Surescripts network to provide immunization reporting to state and local public health agencies and to send 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. 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," Jeffrey Kang, senior vice president of health and wellness services and solutions at Walgreens, said in a statement. "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 health care conversation with their patients."

For those who opt in to the service, Surescripts will use a standard format to capture immunization details and send the record to a patient's primary care provider in whichever form the provider can receive it: electronically or via fax or mail. Doctors using a Surescripts certified electronic health record will have the option of receiving immunization records via the Surescripts Clinical Interoperability Network.

Walgreens reported that so far in the current 2011-12 flu season, over 27,000 certified immunizing pharmacists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants at Walgreens and Duane Reade pharmacies and Take Care Clinics have administered more than 5.5 million immunizations.

A recent Surescripts survey of 400 physicians found that 39% of doctors are frequently missing immunization records during patient visits, and 35% said they are often missing patient summaries.

"Pharmacies continue to lead by example in their efforts to connect care and enable health care providers to share and access clinical information when and where it is needed," Surescripts president and chief executive officer Harry Totonis stated. "Today, Surescripts is the largest neutral, national network for clinical messaging. Using their connection to the Surescripts network, Walgreens pharmacists, nurse practitioners and physician assistants will improve the coordination of care by sharing immunization records and patient summaries with patients' primary care providers. This is the latest example of how Surescripts is connecting health care, supporting meaningful use and enabling pharmacies to support improvements in care, safety, cost and health outcomes."

Surescripts noted that clinical interoperability — a health care provider's ability to electronically share a patient's health information — is widely considered as the next big step to spur the digitalization of the U.S. health care system, playing a central role in such national health care initiatives as improving the continuity of care, supporting the "meaningful use" of electronic health record, and advancing the patient-centered medical home model of care.

The company added that the Surescripts Clinical Interoperability Network is available to any pharmacy for clinical summary communication. The network, announced in October 2010, has provided electronic, fax and mail communication services for other pharmacy clinics since 2008. Surescripts said 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 being used by doctors for physician-to-physician communication and care coordination.