April 21, 2017

Industry Collaboration Is the Key to Improving Patient Safety

With more than one billion e-prescriptions flowing through our network every year, we must ensure the data is comprehensive, accurate and usable. When clinicians and pharmacists receive reliable information at critical points of care—we call it actionable patient intelligence—they can make better informed decisions. This leads to lower costs, higher quality and increased safety—the “holy grail” of healthcare.

As part of our commitment to optimizing data, we launched a Critical Performance Improvement (CPI) program 18 months ago. The program brings together more than 200 participants, including electronic health records (EHR) vendors, pharmacies and drug compendia to improve patient care by enhancing e-prescribing accuracy and efficiency.

So, what has this group been up to lately? Quite a lot, actually. In 2016, we identified and validated the top 11 e-prescribing pain points and then established workgroups to address each of them. Over the past year, the workgroups have convened monthly to identify barriers to success and find ways to jointly overcome them. We’ve been making steady progress toward resolving these pain points to benefit patients, pharmacists and prescribers alike. Here are a few highlights:

Ensuring Drug Codes and Descriptions Match

Imagine a patient picks up his asthma drug at the pharmacy. Due to arthritis, he’s not able to operate a typical propellant inhaler. Although the drug description in his e-prescription calls for a powder, the National Drug Code (NDC) associated with it calls for a propellant inhaler. This conflicting data causes the pharmacist to dispense a propellant inhaler, which is difficult for the patient to use and has to be exchanged for the powder.

When drug codes and descriptions don’t match, errors, inefficiencies and safety issues can result. The good news is, Surescripts is working with our network partners to develop ways to pinpoint discrepancies, so technology providers can update their systems to ensure drug descriptions and NDC codes match.

Adopting Standardized Medication Instructions

We’ve also been working to accelerate the adoption of Structured and Codified Signature (Sig) language used on medication labels. The Sig tells patients how to take their medications, such as “Take one tablet by mouth two times daily.” Standardizing and sending Structured and Codified Sig language will help patients avoid adverse health events, while reducing pharmacy/provider call-backs and related inefficiencies.

Increasing the Use of CancelRx and RxChange

Surescripts instituted CancelRx and RxChange two years ago to enhance e-prescribing efficiency and patient safety. CancelRx allows providers to replace or modify prescriptions within their electronic workflow, instead of having to manually contact pharmacies. Likewise, RxChange lets pharmacists electronically request modifications to prescriptions, which streamlines their communication with prescribers. All of this leads to fewer errors when prescriptions are filled and dispensed, thus improving patient safety while reducing expenses.

Unfortunately, CancelRx and RxChange are still vastly underused, negatively impacting providers, pharmacists and patients alike (check out the February 7, 2017 issue of JAMA). The good news is, our CPI participants are dedicated to promoting and using these tools, and have already helped increase monthly CancelRx requests nearly 300% and monthly RxChange requests 180% since August 2016.

Measuring Impact and Sharing Insights

Our collaboration with industry experts to solve problems like the ones above has also led, in part, to the recent launch of Surescripts Sentinel™.

Surescripts Sentinel measures the accuracy of the more than one billion electronic prescriptions sent across the Surescripts network each year. It uses quality benchmarks and report cards to deliver actionable intelligence to providers, so they can effectively identify and fix e-prescribing issues, such as drug description matching errors. This ultimately improves care quality, patient safety and workflow efficiencies.

Collectively, we have made significant progress in just 18 short months, but we still have more work to do. If you would like to learn more about Surescripts Sentinel and CPI, be sure to subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss future updates.

Industry Collaboration Is the Key to Improving Patient Safety


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The CMS Proposed Update to NCPDP SCRIPT: Let’s Talk Timing and Consistency

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