Health IT

In push for interoperability, SSM Health activates Surescripts National Record Locator Service

The service is integrated into Epic Systems’ Care Everywhere interoperability platform and early plans were unveiled at HIMSS 2014 in Orlando, Florida.

interoperabilityCatholic system SSM Health went live May 23 as the first user of the Surescripts National Record Locator Service, which provides access to information on the more than 140 million individuals in the health connectivity network’s Master Patient Index.

“By having a more complete care history, we can make faster decisions, avoid reordering expensive tests and help ensure that our patients receive the best care possible,” said Richard Vaughn, MD, SSM Health’s Chief Medical Information Officer, in a news release from the St. Louis, Missouri-based system.

The service is integrated into Epic Systems’ Care Everywhere interoperability platform and early plans were unveiled at HIMSS 2014 in Orlando, Florida. It was launched in April of last year with Epic, eClinicalWorks, Greenway Health and CVS Health. Express Scripts and NextGen Healthcare are also involved.

In a Surescripts white paper released last year, it was stated that electronic health records hold “tremendous promise” for lowering costs informing clinical decisions and facilitating population health management.  But “electronic health information exchange between providers and disparate EHR systems–a critical component to unleashing the promise–remains in early stages due to technical, business model, and governance complexities.”

These challenges are slowing the exchange of health information. The paper cites a Health Affairs report that suggests only 30% of hospitals and 10% of ambulatory practices participate in health information exchange. It’s in this environment that Surescripts is stepping forward with its record query and response service.

“We believe the National Record Locator Service will help us follow high-risk patients; obtain critical history in an emergency; obtain records from organizations when patients forget where they’ve had specific services provided; and help providers get acquainted with new patients,” said Erica Neher, SSM clinical interoperability engineer in a testimonial on the Surescripts website.
With sites in Missouri, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin, SSM Health operates 20 hospitals, 62 outpatient care sites and two nursing homes.  The Wisconsin sites are not yet using the service.

“As SSM Health is an early adopter and a pilot participant in the NRLS service, only select providers and markets have participated so far,” Vaughn said in an e-mail. “While it’s too early to know exact timing, plans call for providing NRLS access to our Wisconsin market at the end of the early adopter phase.”

Vaughn declined to say how much it was paying for the service or if it was paying a flat fee or a volume-based charge.

Photo: Flickr user Tsahi Levent-Levi