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COVID-19 Triggers Increase in ePrescribing, Interoperability Tools

Surescripts’ ePrescribing solution exceeded 1 million prescribers for the first time in its history.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare providers increased interoperability tool adoption to boost healthcare management, price transparency, and specialty medications, according to a Surescripts 2020 National Progress Report.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a spotlight on the intense need for making health information available and accessible across care settings, as care providers found new ways to deliver care," Tom Skelton, Chief Executive Officer of Surescripts, said in a statement.

In total, Surescripts processed 17.5 billion total transactions, which was a slight decrease from 19.1 billion in 2019 due to optimization and network improvements, the company explained.

The total number of ePrescriptions exceeded 1 million prescribers for the first time when Surescripts added 63,000 prescribers and 1.91 billion ePrescriptions in 2020. The number of ePrescriptions for controlled substances increased 52 percent from 134.2 million in 2019 to 203.6 million in 2020.

COVID-19 sparked the advance of virtual healthcare, sparking a 72.5 percent increase in the number of electronic prescriptions written through telehealth during the first month of COVID-19.

The number of electronic prior authorizations increased by 43.2 percent and 7.6 percent more prescribers are now utilizing electronic prior authorization.

More clinicians are also adopting and utilizing price transparency tools.

Over 413,000 prescribers leveraged real-time prescription benefit tools and prescribers saw nearly 240 million benefit responses. This was a 75.4 percent increase since 2019.

According to the report, it takes less than 1.5 seconds to receive cost and coverage information in the solution workflow.

“With the push of a single button, our staff now has immediate access to each patient's benefit information. Information that used to require multiple steps and several minutes to gather now appears right away,” said Priyank Patel, PharmD, owner of Felicity Pharmacy in Bronx, NY.

Communication between providers is crucial when it comes to patient data exchange, which is why providers across the country are always aiming to enhance provider-to-provider communication by way of clinical direct messaging.

“The need for standards-based interoperability tools shone brighter than ever as healthcare organizations and public health agencies strove to share information and coordinate a response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote the report authors. “In 2020, Clinical Direct Messaging was used to quickly and securely transmit COVID-19 diagnosis reports to public health agencies for review and action.”

The quantity of clinical direct messaging transaction exchanges saw a 50 percent increase from 52.8 million in 2019 to 79.4 million in 2020. Their number of individuals and healthcare organizations leveraging the platform also increased 15 percent from 648,500 in 2019 to 745,200 in 2020.

Thirty-five healthcare organizations enabled COVID-19 electronic case reporting, sending 5.97 million COVID-19 case reports were sent to 61 jurisdictions across the country.

There was also a 159 percent increase in medication histories that were sent to health systems, hospitals, and accountable care organizations.

Over 137,000 clinicians from over 23,000 organizations leveraged the Record Locator & Exchange solution to view and exchange patient medical records. The solution includes 426 million clinical document source links spanning across all 50 states and Washington DC.

The company observed a 159 percent increase in medication histories for populations delivered, from 9.03 million in 2019 to 23.40 million in 2020. It also helped eliminate duplicate medications and messages by reducing the number of medication history messages delivered from 2.18 billion in 2019 to 1.95 billion in 2020.

“In 2020, the Surescripts Network Alliance rose to the challenge and armed more care providers than ever before with actionable patient intelligence to inform care decisions and enable safer and more affordable prescriptions,” Skelton concluded.

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