AdvancePCS and Tufts Health Plan sponsor PDA-equipped physicians in electronic prescription pilot

Waltham 23 April 2001A select group of 200 Massachusetts doctors has embarked on an innovative, electronic-prescribing pilot programme which employs wireless handheld organiser technology to enhance patient safety and significantly improve the efficiency of their practices at the point of care. AdvancePCS, a major health improvement company, and Tufts Health Plan, a not-for-profit managed care organisation offering a complete array of health care coverage products, are sponsoring the project. The co-operative effort is designed to measure and interpret the value of providing electronic prescribing and other features which can improve quality of care, manage drug costs, and reduce work flow inefficiencies.

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Participating doctors have the opportunity to use and evaluate an advanced handheld wireless system which offers them speedy access to electronic prescribing capabilities and important patient information while they are with the patient in the examining room. Each physician in the pilot programme receives a PocketScript electronic prescription writer that uses a secure, Internet-connected, Compaq iPAQ personal digital assistant (PDA) equipped with a wireless antenna and software that accesses data from the practice management system.

The secure system provides prescribers with access to their patients' drug histories and a safety feature that enables them to screen for and prevent potential drug interactions. When ready to prescribe a drug, the physician can select the patient's name and the drug by using a touch screen or take advantage of the voice recognition feature by simply saying the patient's name and chosen drug's name. The device immediately displays whether the drug is accepted under the Tufts Health Plan or other area health plan, as well as the co-payment category.

The physician prescribes the drug by touching the screen, which transmits the prescription directly to the pharmacy of the patient's choice via secure fax. The technology promises to help reduce medical errors associated with illegible or misread handwriting and improve the information available to physicians at the point a prescription is written. The technology ultimately will help physicians reduce the administrative aspects of telephone, fax, and mail communications currently required for such transactions.

"AdvancePCS' focus on technology and market research have enabled us to provide meaningful solutions for those who have a stake in promoting better health care", stated Jon S. Halbert, AdvancePCS vice chairman, e-business and technology. "We are pleased to join with Tufts Health Plan in a programme that promotes drug safety while adding convenience for patient and physician alike." Joseph Gerstein, M.D., medical director for pharmacy programmes at Tufts Health Plan added: "This pilot has the potential to revolutionise the prescribing process. Since pharmacy continues to be one of the most dynamic areas of medical innovation, it is essential that we investigate programmes and methods that can improve the quality, usefulness and affordability of pharmaceuticals."

AdvancePCS is an expert in health improvement services, touching the lives of more than 75 million health plan members and managing more than $21 billion annually in prescription drug spending. The company offers health plans a wide range of health improvement products and services designed to improve the quality of care delivered to health plan members. The company's capabilities include integrated mail service and retail pharmacy networks, innovative clinical services, customised disease management programmes, clinical trials and outcomes research, information management, as well as prescription drug services for the uninsured.

Tufts Health Plan has turned quality and efficiency into a top priority and has enhanced its e-business capabilities so that members, providers, and employers can access services in a hassle-free environment. Members can change their address, primary care physician changes and fitness centre through the Tufts Health Plan Web page as well review provider lists and profiles, benefit information, and prescription drug coverage. Physicians can perform on-line eligibility and co-pay queries, pre-registration and referrals, and last year, Tufts Health Plan announced a Web-based software solution that gives insurance brokers access to product options and quotes on-line.

PocketScript Company develops software applications for wireless, handheld devices to improve physician efficiency and work flow. PocketScript is the first company to develop a Speech-Driven Interface (SDI) that allows doctors to simply say names of patients and prescription drugs, instantly accessing records using a handheld computer at the point of care. Using PocketScript, doctors can electronically write and transmit prescriptions, receive formulary and drug interaction information, access education and compliance services, and connect wirelessly to the Internet.


Leslie Versweyveld

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