Editor’s Note: The following article is a Guest Column from Tom Bizzaro, VP of health policy and industry relations for FDB Health. To learn more about submitting a Guest Column, Click Here.
Frequently, when conversations turn to the interoperability of healthcare IT systems, a negative vibe permeates the air. Indeed, some people view the Office of the National Coordinator’s 10 year interoperability plan with a feeling of exasperation while expounding the many obstacles that need to be cleared en route to success over the next decade. A look at what has happened in the e-prescribing arena, however, should offer some hope, and make all the talk a bit more uplifting.
E-prescribing is a story with a happy ending. Consider the following: e-prescribing has now reached a tipping point. According to the 2013 National Progress Report and Safe-Rx Rankings, e-prescribing now accounts for a majority (58 percent) of all eligible prescriptions in the United States. In addition, the total volume of prescriptions routed electronically increased 32 percent, up from 78 million in 2012 and 570 million in 2011. Plus, the adoption of electronic prescribing by independent pharmacies increased 11 percent between 2011 and 2013, while adoption among chain pharmacies remained constant at 98 percent.
What’s interesting is the fact that just 15 or so years ago, conversations about e-prescribing had that same downtrodden vibe that currently permeates the interoperability talk. In retrospect, though, we’ve made quite a bit of progress in a relatively short time. In fact, I left my first retail pharmacy job because the owners would not computerize the pharmacy because they thought it was a “passing phase.” Now look how far we have come!
The EHR interoperability movement could take a page or two out of the e-prescribing book. The success of e-prescribing, of course, stems from the fact that all industry players – from physicians to pharmacists to patients – acknowledged the fact that e-prescribing provides many quality, efficiency and cost benefits over traditional written processes. From there, the industry worked hard to make e-prescribing happen. The key to this winning effort was the adoption of a series of standards that helped to spearhead the movement.
Here are just some of the major standards that were adopted along the way: Foundation standards became effective on January 1, 2006;National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) SCRIPT Standard, version 8.1, was adopted on a voluntary basis on June 23, 2006; a final e-prescribing rule with three additional standards was published in the Federal Register on April 7, 2008; the e-prescribing standards were updated in January of 2009; the SCRIPT Version 10.6 standard was adopted on October 1, 2014; and the NCPDP Formulary and Benefits 3.0 transaction standard is set to become effective on February 28, 2015.
Here at FDB, we’ve always understood that the development, evolution and adoption of e-prescribing standards has been key to the e-prescribing movement’s success. And, we continue to acknowledge the importance of such standards. In fact, FDB recently contributed $10,000 to the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs Foundation. The Foundation supports research and education related to the adoption of NCPDP standards and this unrestricted grant will be used for research to optimize e-prescribing.
We’re also hoping that the electronic health records (EHR) interoperability movement follows a trajectory similar to that of e-prescribing. To start, as an industry, we have to universally acknowledge the value of interoperability within healthcare IT systems. Indeed, sharing data across systems can help to improve care quality and efficiency in the country’s health system and lead to success of value-based reimbursement models. However, all players – providers, payers, patients and vendors alike – need to truly embrace the value EHR interoperability, putting it above any proprietary concerns.
Then, we need to get to work. We must continue to develop and implement a wide range of standards and vocabularies. Through these, we will ensure that our data is in synch and that systems will always be speaking the same language. Perhaps most important, we need a National Patient Identifier, which will make it possible to match information to specific patients as they traverse the health system. And, while it might seem like doing all this work will take a long time, if we roll up our sleeves and do what’s required, the EHR interoperability story will have its own happy ending soon enough.
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- EHR Interoperability: Following in E-Prescribing’s Footsteps? - March 7, 2015