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AAFP, Surescripts Unveil Secure Messaging Service
AAFP Physicians Direct Web Portal Will Facilitate Physician Communication
By Sheri Porter
"Today we celebrate a monumental step forward in the digital transformation of our nation's health care system," said Stream in his opening remarks.
The online messaging system is the result of collaboration between the AAFP and Surescripts. Family physicians and other health care professionals can connect to the Surescripts network, which, according to Surescripts EVP Cris Ross, has about 240,000 health care professional members, and then share information via the Physicians Direct web portal that soon will be directly linked to several electronic health record, or EHR, systems.
Three health information technology companies -- SOAPware, Amazing Charts and e-MDs -- announced at the news conference that they would embed Physicians Direct messaging technology into their current and future products. All three companies' products have been certified as fulfilling EHR "meaningful use" criteria by a recognized certification body.
System Startup Set for April
In addition, subscribers can send message alerts to nonsubscribers, who then can retrieve their messages from a secure Web page within the portal and reply at no charge.
This is "the first service of its kind with a nationwide reach and the first with the capacity to message to nonsubscribers," said Stream. The system supports the patient-centered medical home, or PCMH, model; improves continuity of care; and helps physicians meet some of the federal government's meaningful use requirements for EHRs, he noted.
This new level of clinical data sharing between health care professionals stands to "make care more seamless for our patients," Stream added.
Melton, who also spoke during the news conference, said primary care should "own this process" of physician communication. "AAFP Physicians Direct will make it much more likely that your clinical information will pass cleanly and confidentially from one hand to the next," he said.
The Physicians Direct network will be available to all active AAFP members and all other health care professionals with a national provider identifier number, which should ensure a robust network, according to Steven Waldren, M.D., director of the AAFP's Center for Health IT.
"The value of the network to our members will increase as the volume of subscribers goes up," said Waldren, who was instrumental in bringing the partnership to fruition.
Family physicians transitioning their practices to the PCMH model of care have reported ongoing problems exchanging clinical information in a secure fashion with their peers, said Waldren. "Continuity of care is an important part of the medical home, and so the AAFP took advantage of this opportunity to partner with Surescripts on a national scale to address that obstacle."
Waldren described the new service as a low-cost messaging channel that would eliminate physicians' dependence on faxes, the U.S. Postal Service and other delivery services when sending and tracking patient referrals and following patients' care.
"The network allows the family physician to securely send information wherever it needs to be sent and ensures that when the patient arrives at the physician's office to which he was referred, his records will be there waiting," said Waldren.
Agencies Issue Final Rules that Define, Support 'Meaningful Use' of EHRs
More From AAFP
News Release: "American Academy of Family Physicians Unveils New Secure Electronic Messaging Service for Physicians Based on Surescripts Network for Clinical Interoperability"
(Feb. 15, 2011)
Center for Health IT "Meaningful Use" Web page
Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH)
CMS Fact Sheet: "CMS and ONC final regulations define meaningful use and set standards for electronic health record incentive program"