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Healthcare interoperability expanded significantly in 2019, with more than 19 billion secure transactions

Health pros saw the benefits of leveraging patient information to enhance the prescribing process with greater automation and transparency.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Healthcare interoperability and enhanced information sharing continued to improve healthcare quality, safety and cost for U.S. patients and providers, according to the Surescripts 2019 National Progress Report.

The national health information network processed 19.15 billion secure transactions in 2019 while connecting 1.78 million healthcare professionals and organizations with actionable patient data for 95% of the U.S. population.

In 2019, healthcare professionals saw the benefits of leveraging patient information to enhance the prescribing process with greater automation, improved workflows and increased price transparency. For example, prescriber enablement for e-prescribing reached 79%, with 1.79 billion e-prescriptions filled, bringing the rate of e-prescribing to 80% of all prescriptions.

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The number of e-prescriptions filled for controlled substances reached 134.2 million, representing 38% of controlled substance prescriptions – up 12% from the year prior, with 49% of prescribers enabled for the technology.

The volume of real-time benefit checks at the point of care increased by 336%, with more than 250,000 prescribers using the service, a 233% increase. And electronic prior authorizations increased by 132%, driven by a 58% increase in provider adoption of the tool.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT?

The data also showed clinicians accessed patient insights to obtain a more complete picture of their patients' care histories and make more informed care decisions. For instance, Surescripts delivered 2.18 billion medication histories, a 19% increase, while use of Medication History for Populations increased nearly 200%.

Meanwhile, Record Locator and Exchange delivered 333.8 million links to clinical document locations and 143.2 million documents listing where patients had previously received care. Nearly 136,000 clinicians used the service, a 28% increase in 2019.

Also in 2019, more than 648,000 individuals and organizations sent 37.7 million Clinical Direct Messages, nearly a 20% increase from 2018.

In the midst of all of this, Surescripts maintained network-wide uptime of about 99.999%, maintained HITRUST CSF Certified status for privacy, security and risk management practices, improved the network-wide Quality Index Score for e-prescription accuracy by 10%, and helped migrate most of the network to the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs' new e-prescribing standard.

THE LARGER TREND

The release on March 9 of the long-awaited interoperability final rules from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services happened to coincide with the acceleration of the coronavirus pandemic nationwide.

Now, six week later, ONC and CMS, along with the HHS Office of Inspector General, say they've recognized the enormous priority shifts that have been required as hospitals and health systems battle the COVID-19 emergency, and are giving some leeway for certain compliance dates with the new rules.

The flexibility is not across the board, but only for some specific portions of the two sets of rules, although ONC and CMS say they'll continue to "monitor the implementation landscape to determine if further action is needed."

ON THE RECORD

"With the COVID-19 pandemic impacting patients and providers across the globe, a trusted nationwide health information network has never been more critical," said Surescripts CEO Tom Skelton. "In 2019, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others across the Surescripts Network Alliance made remarkable progress transforming interactions with patients and driving significant improvements in care quality, safety and costs."
 

Twitter: @JELagasse

Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com