- In a crucial step toward nationwide interoperability, eight leading healthcare organizations went live with Surescripts National Record Locator Service (NRLS) as of this week.
According to a recent press release, “thousands of healthcare providers can harness the ability to identify previous care locations, share and retrieve clinical records nationwide, and effectively get a more complete picture of patients’ medical history” with the help of Surescripts service.
Using prescription information, Surescripts assesses provider-patient relationships. After a search, NRLS produces a document listing the contact information of providers who have prescribed to the patient through the network. Surescripts then activates links to live Carequality endpoints to expedite the transition from record location to retrieval.
Carequality’s legal and technical framework, which employs a unified set of legal terms, policy requirements, technical specifications, and governance processes, enables a faster and easier connection between providers.
Within this framework, NRLS allows for data sharing across health IT platforms and networks to give healthcare providers faster and easier access to clinical records and historical patient visit locations.
Efficiently sharing protected health information (PHI) within existing EHR workflows mitigates the confusion and hassle of transferring information across incompatible systems so providers can focus more on patient care. Immediate access to comprehensive, up-to-date patient records allows for safer, more effective care and minimizes the margin for error.
According to Surescripts announcement, NRLS has grown to cover 140 million patients and more than 2 billion patient visits since its inception in March 2016. To date, Surescripts has enabled almost 6.5 million requests for patient locations and provided over 1.6 million location of care summaries.
Among the leading healthcare facilities utilizing Surescripts services are Cedars-Sinai, which boasts over 2,100 physicians and 2,800 nurses in the Greater Los Angeles area, and Sutter Health in Northern California, which employs over 5,000 doctors in 27 hospitals.
“The benefits are clear,” said Lewis Low, MD, Chief Medical Officer for Legacy Health, “We’ve already exchanged more than 82,000 patient records through the service, enabling our physicians to have a more complete care history of their patients regardless of where they were treated.”
Surescripts has steadily expanded its reach within the healthcare community since 2015, processing a total of 9.7 billion secure data transactions over the course of the calendar year, which marks a 48% increase over 2014.
Likewise, Carequality has grown significantly over the last year, surging from 3,000 clinics and 200 hospitals in August to 11,000 clinics and 500 hospitals in October. And earlier this month, Carequality reached an agreement with CommonWell Health Alliance that will lead participants in either initiative to benefit from many of the health data exchange services available to members of the other.
Working in conjunction, these interoperability systems streamline health data sharing from multiple angles. Legal, political, and technological hang-ups that would normally present arduous barriers to retrieving patient health information no longer hinder EHR accessibility.
In a true show of commitment, Surescripts is accelerating nationwide interoperability even further by announcing it is making NRLS free to EHR vendors until 2019.
“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,” said Surescripts CEO Tom Skelton in a September statement.
Success in expanding to eight more health facilities represents a significant step forward for not only Surescripts and Carequality as services but also healthcare interoperability as a whole. Major health organizations such as Cedars-Sinai, Novant Health, and Sutter Health signing on for the service may result in a ripple effect influencing more health organizations to follow suit.