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Guest Columnist Author: Harry Totonis, President and CEO of Surescripts Last Updated: Sep 7, 2017 - 10:11:01 PM

Health Information Technology That Works

By Harry Totonis, President and CEO of Surescripts
Oct 15, 2009 - 6:37:20 PM

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( - The $19 billion in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dedicated to improving electronic health record adoption has generated thousands of news reports, commentaries and blog discussions highlighting the promises of health information technology (HIT). But before HIT can improve outcomes, reduce costs and increase efficiency, the nation’s leaders must figure out a way – beyond cash – to encourage its adoption and use. While there are many theories on how to best go about this, e-prescribing is a real example with real answers about what works.

The adoption and use of e-prescribing is a national success story that is unique within HIT.

Today, more than 140,000 physicians and other prescribers nationwide use the Surescripts network to send e-prescriptions to any of 51,000 retail pharmacies and six of the largest mail order pharmacies. Physicians and other prescribers also use the Surescripts network to establish a secure, electronic link to pharmacy benefit managers and thousands of health plans nationwide. This allows them to confirm coverage and look up information, such as prescription co-pays and the availability of generic alternatives for two-thirds of all Americans. With their patient’s consent, prescribers can also access prescription history.

Whether it is the convenience of making one trip to the pharmacy or receiving your prescription by mail; or the improved safety of legible prescriptions and providing doctors a more complete prescription history; or the savings that come from a patient and their doctor knowing about and selecting lower-cost prescription alternatives – e-prescribing makes these benefits available to millions of patients nationwide.

The success of e-prescribing is no accident. It is the result of an unprecedented collaboration between pharmacy benefit managers, payers, chain and independent pharmacies, software vendors and physicians. This collaboration is enabled by a neutral, nationwide network – The Nation’s E-Prescription Network. The network allows participants in e-prescribing to securely share information and to do so in a way that never permits the interests of one participant to be put ahead of another. The effort has received strong support from both federal and state governmental, as well as non-governmental organizations, that help set standards and incentivize use.

The e-prescribing model is evidence of the speed and effectiveness that can be achieved in bringing digital solutions to the challenges faced by the U.S. healthcare system when the needs of all participants are well considered. It was not always this way.

In the 1990s, many in the healthcare industry tried to push proprietary technologies and approaches to sharing health information that were not able to gain industry-wide support – i.e. they built it, but no one came. This was true of early attempts at e-prescribing. It was not until a new model took hold — one of collaboration across the healthcare system – that e-prescribing finally arrived.

As policymakers determine how to get the best return on their investment in HIT, the nation’s experience with e-prescribing suggests that, by working together on a level playing field, healthcare leaders can effectively drive adoption and use of HIT. Cash is critically important, but collaboration in the name of lower cost and higher quality health care is what works.

Harry Totonis is President and CEO of Surescripts, which operates The Nation’s E-Prescription Network.

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