By Neil Versel
May 27, 2008 | FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.—While the main thrust of this year’s Towards an Electronic Patient Record (TEPR) conference was patient-centric interoperability via cell phone (See “TEPR Predicts Cell Phone PHRs”), two large organizations in a small meeting room demonstrated live data transfer between retail clinic and physician office.
MinuteClinic, owned by pharmacy giant CVS Caremark, is using the Pharmacy Health Information Exchange of ePrescribing connectivity network SureScripts to help ensure primary care physicians are informed when their patients visit the nurse practitioner at a walk-in clinic. It is the first time the SureScripts network has been used for anything other than pharmacy orders and related transactions.
The interoperability test, shown live last week and now underway in Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tenn., is meant to ensure continuity of care for patients who seek treatment at the increasingly popular chain of retail clinics. In fact, MinuteClinic is using the Continuity of Care Record (CCR) standard to transmit the information.
Cris Ross, chief information officer for MinuteClinic, says the company will convert records from its proprietary electronic medical records system into a CCR format. MinuteClinic is calling the Retail Clinic Encounter Summary, version 1.0., a “retail clinic profile” for its patients. The records can go across the SureScripts data infrastructure to the physician practice of the patient’s choice.
“There are a number of things we do very well with physicians, except connect electronically,” explained Ross. “We’ve been looking for a business-to-business exchange.”
The trial has the support of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), as that organization believes the connectivity helps support the notion of the primary care physician as a patient’s “medical home.”
Prior to this test, SureScripts had exclusively been a hub of connectivity between prescribers—primarily physician offices—and pharmacies. “This is the first communication that SureScripts will have just on the physician/provider side,” said SureScripts chief technology officer David Yakimischak.
“The idea is that we already have pharmacies connected,” acting SureScripts CEO Rick Ratliff told Digital HealthCare & Productivity by telephone. “We have an ability to identify a physician uniquely on the network.”
Ratliff said the CCR “can be moved around almost like a piece of mail” from provider to provider, and into personal health records (PHRs).
“At the endpoint, if there is an electronic medical record and they support the Continuity of Care Record, they can import it. If not, they can print it out,” according to Ratliff. SureScripts and MinuteClinic ran the demonstration with the help of SOAPWare, an EMR from Fayetteville, Ark.-based vendor DOCS Inc., on a tablet computer with a cellular modem.
Ross noted that MinuteClinic is working with the new Google Health platform to give patients a PHR option. Ratliff said SureScripts also has been having discussions with Google.
Taking a swipe at the many regional health information organizations (RHIOs) that have failed to generate significant operating revenue, Yakimischak said this business model is sustainable, and will save money for MinuteClinic.
“This is a clash with the National Health Information Network, large-RHIO model,” Ross said. However, users can still put records into a RHIO if they so choose.
“I think what we’re doing is complementary to what’s being contemplated on the national level,” Ratliff said. He noted that the NHIN is envisioned as a network of networks, much like the Internet as a whole, and SureScripts essentially is a specialty network in that paradigm.
Sign up for a free subscription to Digital HealthCare & Productivity.