Verizon secure medical messaging service enters 'beta stage' of testing

A new service from Verizon that will allow doctors nationwide to securely exchange medical information electronically entered a "beta stage" this week, according to company Chief Medical Officer Peter Tippett, who spoke about the service at a press conference at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society's annual conference in New Orleans.

The service--dubbed Secure Universal Message Services--consists of two parts, according to Tippett: an information exchange through which hospitals can transfer data between one another, and a web-based portal where doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals can exchange messages.

"We have a ton of digital information … but 90 percent of it moves in an analog way," Tippett said. "Of the 1.4 billion dictations that get done each year, about 500 million are attempted to be shared by other providers, and over 80 percent of those go from doctor A to doctor B on paper, fax or through a courier."

"Can you imagine if you had to do your job without email?" Tippett continued. "That's the state of the healthcare industry."

According to Tippett, the system has been tested at the application-to-application level for quite a while. Verizon officials, he said, expect the system to launch within a couple of months.

"We are interested in getting it right," Tippett said. "We are interested in raising all boats. We are not interested in building something that is a product that people use, we're interested in providing infrastructure that leverages identity and security and log-in and the rest of it. We're interested in figuring out the right mix of problems that, if we remove them, can accelerate the whole healthcare industry."

The announcement came only a few hours after five electronic health record companies--Cerner, McKesson, athenahealth, Allscripts and Greenway Medical Technologies—announced the formation of a nonprofit company dubbed the CommonWell Health Alliance geared toward enabling interoperability.