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Last week in Palm Beach, technology leaders from across the country came together at the ASAP Midyear Conference to explore the biggest industry developments facing pharmacies right now. I was there, too: learning, listening and sharing our response to one of those major developments: the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS) final rule adopting the National Council for Prescription Drug Program's SCRIPT standard version 2017071.

That's a mouthful, and the transition to the new standard promises to be complex—though it's our goal at Surescripts to make it as smooth as possible. From our technologies themselves to our businesses processes and implementation guidance, we're committed to preserving network stability and patient safety as we move toward the new standard (which will affect our E-Prescribing and Medication History solution areas, as well as our provider and pharmacy directories).

Our work around the new SCRIPT standard involves the entire Surescripts Network Alliance and currently focuses on three areas:

  1. Advocating on behalf of the Surescripts Network Alliance: Through collaboration and federal advocacy, we've worked to give voice to the needs of all of our partners. We worked across the Network Alliance to submit comments after CMS issued its notice of proposed rule making, and then participated in the NCPDP collaborative effort to draft and submit questions to CMS in response to its final rule. We also issued a letter to CMS addressing concerns with the hard cutoff date it proposed for SCRIPT version 10.6.

  2. Supporting participants with new guides and translations: Surescripts is in the unique position to act as a translator between network participants using different SCRIPT versions, so customers can migrate independently of each other. As organizations begin their transition projects, we're also releasing comprehensive companion guides to the new standard. For new SCRIPT elements considered optional, we're working to prioritize those that Network Alliance participants find most important to address.

  3. Providing testing, certification and onboarding tools: Early adopter phases are already in the works, beginning with a small group of customers making plans to participate in the first early adopter wave for the new SCRIPT standard for E-Prescribing. (If you're a Surescripts customer and would like to learn more about participating as an early adopter, please reach out to your account team.)

To support early adopters and those who follow in their footsteps, our Admin Console tool is being enhanced in several ways. And we've also introduced a new Message Manager tool to let users quickly and easily create and send test E-Prescribing messages.

The journey to the new SCRIPT standard will certainly take time and work, but the destination is worth the effort. Beyond the obvious benefit of achieving regulatory compliance, it will improve the process of getting prescriptions filled in two major ways for healthcare professionals and the patients they serve:

  1. New features that reduce confusion and replace manual processes: The new standard will include improvements to fields for compound ingredients (enabling the ability to specify up to 25 unique ingredients), Sig free text and structured Sig to more clearly transmit the prescriber's intent. It will also elaborate on use cases for the RxChange and CancelRx transactions, helping pharmacists get clarification on ambiguous scripts, alert prescribers to possible drug or allergy interactions and suggest alternatives. All of this will ultimately enable pharmacies to better automate medication adjustments so patients receive the right medication.

  2. More E-Prescribing routing and Medication History transaction options: Transactions added to the new SCRIPT standard include NewRxRequest, which lets pharmacists request a new prescription upon the expiration of a prescription or a patient's request, and RxTransfer, which helps fulfill patient requests to transfer their prescription to a different pharmacy.

Through these updates, we can improve patient safety and prescription accuracy while making workflows between healthcare providers and pharmacies more efficient.

The transition is close at hand: CMS adoption of the new SCRIPT standard is currently set for January 1, 2020. Between now and then, Surescripts and other leaders within the Surescripts Network Alliance will be busy setting the pace and clearing the path ahead.