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Posts Tagged ‘SureScripts’

Just as Healtheway looks to ween itself off the federal gravy train, Surescripts comes along and in a couple of quick strokes looks ready to drive a stake into the heart of Healtheway or at least any desire Healtheway may have to become the Nationwide Health Information Network (NwHIN).

It all started when Surescripts acquired collaborative HIE messaging vendor Kryptiq in late August. This was quickly followed a week later with Surescripts’ announcement that it would become Epic’s vendor of choice for cross-EHR connectivity. It appears that Epic has finally succumbed to the inevitable; that it will need to open up its system (Epic’s purported Epic Elsewhere, to address cross EHR connectivity was in reality Epic Nowhere – just vaporware) to communicate in a heterogeneous EHR environment. The Surescripts Clinical Interoperability (CI) network solution will become an “Epic Unit” and on Epic’s price sheet. The details of this story were covered in our September Monthly Update for CAS subscribers.

What drove Epic to make such a drastic move? Pretty simple really, Stage Two meaningful use requirements which were released on August 23rd. Within those new requirements for certification, EHR vendors must demonstrate that they can send a message across EHR boundaries (outside their ecosystem). Epic really had no choice in the matter – they had to do something to address this requirement. Chilmark has also been hearing an ever louder drumbeat that Epic customers were also demanding that Epic do something to address messaging in a heterogeneous EHR environment. (Note: eClinicalWorks is another EHR vendor that was forced to open up their notoriously closed peer-to-peer networking service for clients, though eCW twisted it around to make it appear like an act of generosity.) Surescripts provided Epic an easy way out with a non-competing entity.

Last week, Surescripts announced that another major ambulatory EHR vendor would adopt the CI network, this time it was NextGen. Surescripts now has three of the top five ambulatory EHR vendors (Epic, GE, and NextGen) on its network. If one were to just look at the numbers, these three EHR vendors combined represent over 50% of practicing physicians in the US.

Surescripts is likely to add more EHR vendors in the coming months as these vendors look to grapple with the latest Stage 2 MU requirements for both Direct Secure Messaging (DSM) and cross EHR messaging. Adopting Surescripts CI network as a module into their existing EHR solves that issue in a non-competitive manner.

Surescripts’ intent is to leverage its core competency of providing lightweight, network services to reach beyond eRx to address basic clinical messaging. Some may argue that DSM accomplishes the same thing. Not really. The Kryptiq solution, upon which Surescripts’ CI network is built, provides collaborative, threaded messaging and not just the simple point-to-point messaging of DSM. Surescripts also brings to the table what is arguably the largest physician directory, that currently supports its eRx capabilities.

Surescripts jumping into the mix of HIE solution vendors will only complicate what is already becoming an increasingly competitive HIE market for services. In our 2012 HIE Market Trends Report we called such services as Surescripts’ CI a micro-HIE for they are self-forming, starting at the physician practice level, rather than being sponsored by some large entity, be it a public agency or larger hospital system. One of the findings of eHealth Initiative’s latest survey released last week is that HIEs are seeing increasing competition from other HIEs in their community. This competition will only increase with the advent of micro-HIEs.

Combining Surescripts’ existing national provider directory, its partnerships with three of the top five ambulatory EHRs and you have a truly, commercial NwHI – something that Healtheway wishes to become but has a long journey ahead to get there. This will likely force Healtheway to only tackle issues for its federal sponsors (Social Security Administration, Veteran’s Administration and to lesser extent Dept of Defense). Dreams beyond those limited confines will likely remain such if Surescripts is able to effectively execute on its own vision.

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Last week was the massive Salesforce.com user conference Dreamforce (massive in that there were more attendees at Dreamforce then this year’s HIMSS!). We’ve been reviewing more than a few articles and writings written by those who attended the event. In the few short years of its existence (~13yrs) Salesforce.com has become one of the leading Customer Relationship Management (CRM) vendors in the market and basically pushed the previous leader Siebel to the brink and into the arms of Oracle. Salesforce is arguably the leader in the Software as a Service (SaaS) market and thus someone to pay close attention to on all things “Cloud Computing.”

So what makes Salesforce.com so compelling and what are some parallels to the healthcare sector?

Similar Market Demographics: From the beginning Salesforce has always been structured as a SaaS and targeted the hard to reach and highly distributed sales forces of companies of all sizes. Actually, they first targeted the small to medium business (SMB) market and once successful there, went after Siebel in big enterprises. In healthcare, the vast majority of care is provided by small, 1-3 physician practices that are highly distributed across the country – perfect target for a hosted SaaS offering.

Deliver Value, Not Pain: Since most sales people get a large portion of their salary via commissions, the last thing they want to do is hassle with software that is cumbersome to use. Salesforce.com’s user interface (UI) is very intuitive and surprisingly customizable (within limits) for an SaaS offering. This allows a sales person to configure the the solution to their specific needs. We hear time and again from physicians that the EHR they are being forced to use doesn’t fit their workflow and is often painful to use. (Having been demo’d more than our fair share of EHR solutions, it still shocks us just how awful the UI is for these solutions.) Like their sales brethren, physicians need solutions that fit their processes and do not slow them down.

Fold in Rich Communication Tools: At this year’s Dreamforce, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Beniof spend a substantial amount of time focusing on the rich communication tools that Salesforce is embedding to tap the move to social networks. Right now, the US Government is dumping over a half billion dollars to stand-up HIEs in every State and enterprises are easily spending double that amount to facilitate information exchange in support of referrals, lab distribution, orders, etc. What if a Salesforce for healthcare arrived on the scene allowing physicians to securely exchange information in the same manner that those on Salesforce.com use that platform for secure ad hoc communication with internal and external partners to meet customer needs?

Provide Robust Security – No Leakage: Sales leads are a sales person’s bread and butter and they guard them with their lives for it truly is their livelihood. Thus, Salesforce had to build a system that ensured a sales person’s leads were their own with no possibility of a breach (leakage) to a competitor. If Salesforce can meet this strict requirement, is it such a stretch to preserve the integrity of personal health information (PHI) on such a system?

Focus on the Data & Deliver Simple Yet Useful Analytics: Sales is often a numbers game. This requires superior, robust data management and ultimately the ability to create a wide variety of pre-configured and customizable reports. As we move towards value-based contracts, providers of all sizes will be asked to provide reports as well (typically on quality metrics) to those paying the bills (CMS, payers, etc.).

Provide an Ecosystem: Salesforce has a vision to provide an ecosystem of third party apps on top of their platform but to date, like most companies, they have struggled to make much headway here. But in time, as more and more IT functions move to the “Cloud” to support an increasingly mobile device centric world, an ecosystem is inevitable. In healthcare, where one might successfully argue that physicians are one of the most mobile of professions, accessing apps via mobile devices is quickly becoming standard practice. Increasingly, the healthcare market and in particularly those far-flung physician practices, will look to ecosystems of apps delivered over the Web to their mobile device (touch-screen tablet) to support their practices.

Adhere to KISS Principle: Like sales professionals and for that matter just about any other professional worth their salt, physicians in private practices are extremely busy and the last thing they need is to fuss around with software maintenance and upgrades. Subscribing to a SaaS takes that big upgrade headache and slams it with a double dose of Excedrin.

This got us to thinking…

Who in the Healthcare IT (HIT) market might become the Salesforce.com of HIT?

EHR Vendors:
We can’t think of a single vendor in the EHR market that has the foresight, the vision, the chutzpa to pull off a Salesforce.com move. Sure, one can point to PracticeFusion (who happens to have received backing from Salesforce) but we don’t see the vision there. What about athenahealth you might ask? Yes, they like to portray themselves as such, but honestly, their bread n’butter solution is not a SaaS play but more of a straight services play delivered via the Internet and a lot of old school back office processing in a warehouse in Maine. All the other EHR vendors? Either they’re too small to matter or chained to their legacy business models that they can not break free of to deliver the scale and gravitas of a Salesforce.com like solution for healthcare.

HIE Vendors:
Increasingly, HIE vendors are providing simple EHRs targeting ambulatory practices, they certainly have the information exchange piece covered (to highly varying degrees) are beginning to fold in analytics (big reason why UHG acquired Axolotl) and some are looking to provide an ecosystem play such as Medicity with its iNexx platform, Covisint with its AppCloud or even Microsoft’s somewhat aborted attempt with Amalga. Yet, despite these efforts, we do not see any one HIE company really grasping the reigns and running away with the prize. Each of the aforementioned vendors have their own reasons why they haven’t quite captured the imagination of the healthcare sector and we are not holding our breath waiting for someone to breakout.

Others:
Emdeon has a huge presence in the market as a clearinghouse for claims processing and having just been taken private by private equity firm Blackstone, they may try to make such a play. At the most recent HIMSS sat down with Emdeon for a briefing where they hinted to a desire to move more directly into clinicals, but to date, we’ve seen nothing materialize and it is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Emdeon also has the very real issue of their existing business model (did you no their number one capital expense is postage stamps?) that will keep them on the sidelines.

NaviNet is similar to Emdeon in that they already have a direct connection into the physician’s office with some one million plus healthcare providers using their service. NaviNet has the links but it does not appear that they want to get into the nitty gritty of providing a host of other services and offerings on top of their existing platform. It appears that NaviNet will add small incremental services to their platform rather than go for the whole enchilada keeping the platform simple and streamlined.

Surescripts is making a play in the HIE market with its Kryptiq partnership offering the Clinical Interoperability platform. While still early in its development. the Surescripts play is the closest thing we have seen to date to match the existing Salesforce juggernaut and the one to watch.

Now we certainly do not claim to have all the answers, never have. That is why we have a comments section below. So dear readers, we’ve given you are analysis and now it’ your turn. Who do you think is in the best position to become the Salesforce.com of the HIT market?

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SureScripts, A Defacto NHIN

Yesterday in New Orleans, SureScripts announced a new line of business: Clinical Interoperability. Leveraging their existing ePrescribing solution platform, currently serving over 200K physicians nationwide, and combining it with the technology stack of messaging solution provider Kryptiq, SureScripts will offer providers, EHR vendors, HIEs and other stakeholders the opportunity to securely share clinical information across town, the state, a region and the country. In this combination, SureScripts will provide the rails and Kryptiq will address the last mile of connectivity. This announcement has some pretty big implications for the HIE market.  Chilmark was briefed prior to this announcement by both SureScripts and Kryptiq, following is what we learned.

Details:
SureScripts primary focus has been to provide the network that would support physicians transition to ePrescribing. Therefore, SureScripts has been focused on transmitting NDP data and not clinical notes. SureScripts got into the transmission of clinical summaries from one of its larger customers, MinuteClinic wanted to send clinical summaries of patient visits directly to primary care providers. In the past year SureScripts has facilitated the movement of over 0ne million patient summaries for MinuteClinic to primary care physicians using CCR. Seeing an opportunity, SureScripts sought a partner that could take this capability to the next level.

Kryptiq, a company profiled in Chilmark’s forthcoming HIE Market Trends Report due out next month, can be characterized as vendor of HIE capabilities that allow for the organic growth of an HIE without the overhead. Kryptiq has worked behind the scenes for a number of EHR companies to provide secure, structured messaging services within these EHRss ecosystems of customers connecting them to one another as well as to other systems, including SureScripts to facilitate care coordination.

SureScripts has made an equity investment in Kryptiq (undisclosed but likely in the range $7-9M over the next few years) to build-out Kryptiq’s technology stack for SureScripts. The Clinical Interoperability solution will combine SureScripts foundational technology (provider directory, security, authentication, master patient index, etc.) with Kryptiq’s connectivity toolset (interface technology to various EHRs), secure messaging framework and clinical portal.

SureScripts will release the first wave of Clinical Interoperability products in early December. Pricing will be subscription-based (monthly) and depend on the level of service a given practice desires.

Implications:
SureScripts is the closest thing the US has to a de facto National Health Information Network (NHIN). With the rapid growth in ePrescribing (181% in 2009) representing over 600M prescriptions and now over 200K physicians connected to SureScripts, SureScripts has a network in place, particularly in the ambulatory sector, that few if any can boast of. Sure, Epic has its walled garden of Epic Everywhere and its future release of Epic Elsewhere will attempt to connect physicians using other EHRs, but the walled garden has not proven itself to be sustainable over time. Just look at AOL’s walled garden: fine in the early days of the Internet but was simply unable to innovate fast enough to satisfy market needs and wants.

As an EHR vendor neutral platform that actually puts EHR vendors through a rigorous process to provide them with SureScripts certification, SureScripts is not a threat. If anything, and this is highly dependent on what SureScripts may do in expanding its Clinical Interoperability product and services suite, SureScripts may provide a common foundational and commercial NHIN framework that will allow others, including EHR vendors to provide innovative solutions upon. This may lead to a Platform as a Service (PaaS) model facilitating the adoption of distinct modules that sit upon the SureScripts/Kryptiq communication network.

While both SureScripts and Kryptiq stated that they did not see themselves competing directly with HIE vendors, Chilmark sees quite the opposite. Through its ePrescribing services, SureScripts already has established data connections and relationships with a number of EHR vendors. Kryptiq, through its services, has the technology that provides the interfaces to a wide range of EHRs, many of them in the ambulatory sector where SureScripts is also strong. The combined SureScripts-Kryptiq solution suite will impact many an HIE vendor’s bottom-line for these HIE vendors generate a significant portion of revenue on EHR interfaces and their portal solutions. The SureScripts announcement is likely generating a significant number of internal meetings among HIE vendors as they assess what their game plan will be moving forward. If they are wise, they will seek out SureScripts and look at opportunities to collaborate, offering distinct value-added services on the SureScripts network.

While Chilmark was briefed prior to this announcement by both SureScripts and Kryptiq the briefing was short and details few. A more in-depth briefing will occur in the next week or two, including a deep dive into the technology stack. We’ll keep you posted.

Addendum:
John Halamka, CIO at BIDMC, was on the SureScripts panel yesterday at MGMA when this announcement was made. He provides his own perspective from the vantage point of one who is deeply involved in the Massachusetts HIE initiative.

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There has been a lot of talk over the last 6 months regarding e-prescribing (eRx) and what is needed to drive adoption. Today, adoption of eRx practices is about as bad as physician adoption of EMR. Now that Medicare is looking to push eRx, it is really starting to get the attention of physicians as this has the potential to directly hit their bottom-line.

But some common and very real arguments from physicians have been:

  1. The evidence is inconclusive as to how effective eRx truly is in minimizing adverse drug events.
  2. eRx systems often do not work as promised, ultimately creating more work for the physician.
  3. Without an ability to write eRx for controlled substances, the physician is left to juggle two systems simultaneously; paper scripts for controlled substances, and eRx for other medications.
  4. The benefits of using eRx are not typically seen by the physician but by the payer.

But within the week, two big things have happened that may alleviate a couple of these concerns.

Last week, the DEA (I’m sure under a lot of pressure from HHS) released proposed regulations for eRx of controlled substances. This will address problem number 3.

Today, the two big eRx services, RxHub and SureScripts announced that they will merge. This will help address problem number 2.

Combining these two with the aforementioned changes to Medicare reimbursement has real potential to drive physician adoption of digital systems such as eRx and more broadly, EMR.

This is excellent news for the consumer as it has the real potential to drive adoption and use of digital systems in the physician’s office thus liberating clinical information from a paper-based system to one that is digital. Once in a digital format, the consumer will be in a better position to take direct control of their personal health records.

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