New AAFP service helps physicians share electronic information securely

Tags: aafp, ehr, electronic, communications

New AAFP service helps physicians share electronic information securely

posted 02.17.11

AAFP, in conjunction with Surescripts, has launched its newest member resource: AAFP Physicians Direct. Physicians Direct is a service that supports secure electronic communication between physicians. Built on the Surescripts Network for Clinical Interoperability, it is part of a larger program to help physicians more easily and securely share information such as referrals, patient summaries, discharge summaries, and lab results when providing their patients’ care.

AAFP-member physicians will be able to connect to the Surescripts network and share information through the AAFP Physicians Direct web portal or several electronic health record systems. Amazing Charts, e-MDs, and SOAPware have already committed to connecting their EHR systems to the Surescripts network and to collaborating in the Physicians Direct program.

With this new service, AAFP will leverage the Surescripts network to provide electronic clinical interoperability among providers, allowing them to break down communication barriers due to incompatible technology and a lack of interoperability standards. According to an AAFP press release, clinical interoperability between health care providers is viewed by experts as the next critical step to accelerate the digital transformation of the nation’s health care system. The advance of clinical interoperability plays a central role in a number of important national health care initiatives: improving continuity of care, supporting the “meaningful use” of electronic health records, and advancing the patient-centered medical home model of care.

Subscribers to AAFP Physicians Direct can securely exchange messages with any other provider on the Surescripts network. As a way to make clinical interoperability as universal as possible, participants on the network will be able to send message alerts to any other provider, including non-subscribers. Message recipients will retrieve messages from a secure webpage within the Physicians Direct portal and reply to messages for free. Physicians can subscribe to AAFP Physicians Direct for $15 per physician per month. Subscribers are not limited in the number of messages they can send through the secure portal.

AAFP, Surescripts, and other organizations have collaborated with the federal government to create the standard protocols to make this type of electronic clinical communication possible. AAFP Physicians Direct will support all federal and state policies and standards for health information exchange, including privacy and security standards (such as HIPAA and state law), as well as technology interoperability standards and message types such as HL7, CCR, and CCD. Use of standard protocols will allow AAFP physicians to communicate via the Surescripts network with other physicians, whether they connect through an EHR, health information exchange or large hospital system, portal, or the new Direct Project protocols for clinical exchange.

By enabling e-prescribing as well as the secure electronic exchange of clinical information, the Surescripts network offers broad support for the meaningful use of electronic health records, AAFP states in the press release. "Taken together, these capabilities help improve health care quality and safety while reducing the cost of care."

For more information on AAFP Physicians Direct, visit