American Academy of Family Physicians Unveils New Secure Electronic Messaging Service for Physicians Based on Surescripts Network for Clinical Interoperability

Leading-edge collaboration aims to improve communication among providers,enhance continuity of care, support achievement of EHR meaningful use and advance the patient-centered medical home model of care

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Megan Moriarty
Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237 Ext. 5223

WASHINGTON — The American Academy of Family Physicians today announced AAFP Physicians Direct, a new service that supports secure, electronic communication between physicians. Built on the Surescripts Network for Clinical Interoperability, this new AAFP service is part of a larger program to help physicians more easily and securely share information such as referrals, patient summaries, discharge summaries and lab results when providing their patients’ care. The innovative collaboration will make the nation’s leading health information network available to nearly 75,000 family physicians across the United States.

AAFP physicians will be able to connect to the Surescripts network and share information securely through the new AAFP Physicians Direct web portal or a choice of electronic health record systems. Amazing Charts, e-MDs and SOAPware also announced today that they will connect their EHR systems to the Surescripts network and collaborate in the Physicians Direct program.

With this new service, AAFP will leverage the Surescripts network to provide electronic clinical interoperability among providers, allowing them to break down communication barriers due to incompatible technology and a lack of interoperability standards. Clinical interoperability between health care providers is viewed by experts as the next critical step to accelerate the digital transformation of the nation’s health care system. The advance of clinical interoperability plays a central role in a number of important national health care initiatives: improving continuity of care; supporting the “meaningful use” of electronic health records; and advancing the patient-centered medical home model of care.

“We are proud to empower physicians with a digital tool that will make their practice run more efficiently while improving the overall quality of care they provide,” said Glen Stream, MD, MBI, president-elect of the AAFP. “AAFP Physicians Direct will enhance communication among health care providers, and patients likely will experience more seamless coordination and continuity of care. Patients will benefit, and that’s always a ‘win.’”

“The AAFP has long played a leading role in advancing the adoption and use of health IT,” said Harry Totonis, president and CEO of Surescripts. “Today they demonstrate their leadership once more. Working together, AAFP will leverage the Surescripts network to provide an easy-to-use, cost effective means of enabling the nation’s family doctors to connect and share information like never before. AAFP’s new services — available to physicians and other health care providers serving large and small communities throughout the United States — help ensure that everyone can take part and benefit from the digital transformation of the nation’s health care system.”

The AAFP, Surescripts and many other organizations have collaborated with the federal government to create the standard protocols to make this type of electronic clinical communication possible. AAFP Physicians Direct will support all federal and state policies and standards for health information exchange, including privacy and security standards (such as HIPAA and state law), as well as technology interoperability standards and message types such as HL7, CCR and CCD. Use of standard protocols will allow AAFP physicians to communicate via the Surescripts network with any other physicians, whether they connect via an EHR, through a health information exchange or large hospital system, through a portal, or physicians using the new Direct Project protocols for clinical exchange.

“I commend the AAFP for its inspired leadership in helping to create the standard protocols and message types for clinical exchange,” said Farzad Mostashari, MD, ScM, deputy national coordinator for programs and policy at ONC. “AAFP Physicians Direct is a health IT innovation that will help providers achieve meaningful use and support continuity of care, which will reduce costs and medical errors.”

By enabling e-prescribing as well as the secure electronic exchange of clinical information, the Surescripts network offers broad support for the meaningful use of electronic health records. Taken together, these capabilities help improve health care quality and safety while reducing the cost of care.

For supporting statements from various stakeholder organizations, visit

How Family Physicians and Other Providers Can Connect

Today’s announcement introduces multiple new ways for physicians to connect for clinical interoperability.

Subscribers to AAFP Physicians Direct will be able to securely exchange messages with any other provider on the Surescripts Network for Clinical Interoperability. Also, as a way to make clinical interoperability as universal as possible, participants on the Surescripts network will be able to send message alerts to any other provider, including non subscribers. Message recipients will retrieve messages from a secure web page within the Physicians Direct portal and reply to messages for free. AAFP Physicians Direct will be offered as a subscription service for $15 per physician user per month. Subscribers will not be limited in the number of messages they can send through the secure portal.

“We are pleased to offer a digital solution to improve communication among primary care physicians, subspecialists and other health care providers,” said Steven Waldren, MD, director of the AAFP Center for Health IT. “AAFP Physicians Direct will make slow, fragmented and cumbersome patient referrals and follow-up care a thing of the past.”

“In four short months, the ability of one doctor to communicate and share information with another has been redefined,” said Cris Ross, executive vice president of Surescripts. “The days of family physicians having to fax or mail or hand deliver patient files to specialists are over. For less money than what it costs to provide basic cable to patients in their waiting room, clinical interoperability will enable family physicians to share clinical information with more providers in a more efficient and effective way than ever before. Today’s announcement represents a giant leap toward providing the right information to the right provider at the right time.”

Family physicians have the option of connecting to the Surescripts network through the new AAFP web portal as well as some of the leading electronic health record systems.

For more information on AAFP Physicians Direct, visit

New Research Demonstrates Need for Clinical Interoperability

A recent study by the Center for Studying Health System Change showed that primary care and subspecialist physicians have decidedly different views about how often their colleagues communicate with them. They found that 69.3 percent of primary care physicians reported regularly — “always” or “most of the time” — sending a patient’s history and the reason for the referral to the subspecialist, but only 34.8 percent of subspecialists said they regularly receive such information. On the flip side, 80.6 percent of subspecialists said they regularly send consultation results to the referring PCP, but only 62.2 percent of PCPs said they received such information, the study found.

Primary care and subspecialist physicians who did not receive timely communication regarding referrals and consultations were more likely to report that their ability to provide high-quality care was threatened.

About the American Academy of Family Physicians
Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 115,900 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Approximately one in four of all office visits are made to family physicians. That is 214 million office visits each year — nearly 74 million more than the next largest medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.

To learn more about the specialty of family medicine, the AAFP's positions on issues and clinical care, and for downloadable multi-media highlighting family medicine, visit For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer Web site,

About Surescripts
The Surescripts network supports the most comprehensive ecosystem of health care organizations nationwide. Pharmacies, payers, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), physicians, hospitals, health information exchanges and health technology firms rely on Surescripts to more easily and securely share health information. Guided by the principles of privacy, security, neutrality, choice, transparency, collaboration and quality, Surescripts operates the nation’s largest health information network. By providing that information for routine, recurring and emergency care, Surescripts is committed to saving lives, improving efficiency and reducing the cost of health care for all. For more information, go to and follow us at