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Surescripts launching online health-care records network

By Danielle Douglas
Monday, October 25, 2010; 14

One of the nation's largest electronic-prescription providers, Arlington-based Surescripts, is launching a network that will allow physicians to access health-care records online. The move comes as the White House continues to encourage the modernization of medical record-keeping and is gearing up to release $20 billion in stimulus funds toward that end.

Surescripts' new platform is loosely based on its existing service, allowing doctors to issue prescriptions electronically and cross-check script histories with participating pharmacies. Building upon that exchange, the company has created a subscription-only network, through which physicians can share a broader range of patient information with each other.

Doctors can connect to the network either through a secure Internet portal, a health information exchange or their existing electronic records system. Participants will be charged an annual subscription fee, the amount of which is still to be determined. Surescripts plans to initially market the product to its existing client base of 200,000 physicians.

"Given what the administration is trying to do, we can leverage our network to enable physician-to-physician communication," said Harry Totonis, president and chief executive of Surescripts. "We're hoping to help the federal government achieve its aims."

Privately-held Surescripts was the brainchild of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and National Community Pharmacists Association, which launched the service in 2001. Seven years later, the company merged with RxHub, a product of CVS Caremark, Express Scripts and Medco Health Solutions. The combined company now has 141 employees, most of which work out of the company's office in St. Paul, Minn. Two years ago, Surescripts launched a deal with CVS to provide services to more than 500 MinuteClinics.

A statute in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act mandated that by 2014 every person should have an electronic medical record. To meet that lofty goal, the federal government has set aside roughly $20 billion to be released in 2011 as incentive payments to doctors and hospitals that implement eligible electronic record systems.

Surescripts' exchange aims to be compatible with the federal government's information exchange standards determined by the National Health Information Network's Direct Project. The company has no plans to develop electronic medical records software, and views the portal as a temporary solution for doctors who are still acclimating to the system. Eventually, Totonis would like to see the exchange primarily used for network-to-network communication.

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