Tufts Health Plan and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts provide wireless prescribing to physicians

Waltham 31 October 2003Two of Massachusetts' major insurers, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA) and Tufts Health Plan (THP), have secured $3 million to fund an initiative to offer physicians a comprehensive e-prescribing programme that will dramatically improve patient safety and reduce medical costs. The innovative initiative will offer approximately 3400 Massachusetts physicians in both the THP and BCBSMA networks e-prescribing software developed by Zix Corporation on either BlackBerry Colour PDA SmartPhones or wireless Pocket PC devices.


The initiative relies on ZixCorp's PocketScript Electronic Prescription programme, which enables physicians to create both new and refill medication prescriptions electronically instead of through the traditional pen and paper method and allows physicians real-time access to patients' prescription history and real-time formulary information. ZixCorp will also co-ordinate outreach and conduct educational seminars across Massachusetts promoting e-prescribing.

"We are engaging in this unprecedented collaboration because we see a great benefit to expanding our long-term commitment to e-prescribing and broadening the distribution of this technology to physicians across the Commonwealth, thus offering more physicians the opportunity to improve patient care and reduce prescribing errors", stated Deborah Whitehead, assistant vice president for pharmacy at Tufts Health Plan. "We are pleased to have the opportunity to work with both ZixCorp and BCBSMA on this effort."

"This technology has the potential to revolutionize one of the most basic parts of the medical process", stated Dr. Robert Mandel, BCBSMA vice president of provider enrollment and services. "By enrolling 3400 physicians who write the highest volume of prescriptions for our members, we expect to improve prescription drug safety, convenience and costs for the maximum number of our members."

Moving the process from paper to an electronic platform can greatly increase the safety and efficiency of the process. A 1999 Institute of Medicine report cited medical errors including those related to improperly prescribed medications as the eighth leading cause of death for Americans, more than motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer or AIDS.

Tufts Health Plan began evaluating e-prescribing solutions with PocketScript with its network of physicians in 2001. In a pilot study of the first physicians to use the technology, the plan found that:

  • Rejected scripts due to illegibility and interaction with other prescribed drugs decreased, as evidenced by a 30 percent reduction in calls between physicians and pharmacists;
  • 35 percent of prescribers reported patient care benefits due to the ability to check drug interactions and prescription accuracy;
  • 50 percent of study respondents reported changing patient drug therapies to Tufts Health Plan preferred drugs which, if the technology were widely deployed, could mitigate rising pharmaceutical costs by 2 percent or more;
  • An improvement in the efficiency of prescribing, with participating medical group practices reporting a decrease in total time spent on prescriptions of up to 2 hours per prescriber and affiliated staff; and
  • A savings of nearly 1 hour per pharmacist in a typical day.

BCBSMA launched its e-prescribing programme in November of 2002, and has received enthusiastic responses from many of the 200 physicians who use the technology. "We applaud BCBSMA and Tufts Health Plan for recognizing the value of e-prescribing and for their commitment to ensure Massachusetts reaps the many benefits", stated Daniel S. Nutkis, vice president, Care Delivery Solutions at Zix Corporation.

"The decision by these health plans to invest in deploying technology that will both improve patient care and ultimately result in a more efficient use of resources is exactly what we need to see", stated Elliot Stone, CEO of the Massachusetts Health Data Consortium. "Tufts and BCBSMA should be commended for understanding that competition for members does not preclude collaboration on patient safety initiatives."

Zix Corporation, through its Care Delivery Solutions Group, is a trusted provider of solutions for e-prescribing and electronic prescription management. By offering care delivery services, ZixCorp enables physicians and payers to streamline the prescription process, maximize patient safety, and optimize operational efficiency. ZixCorp e-communications services enrich the doctor/patient relationship through easy-to-use technologies with convenient send-from-anywhere capability. More information about the company can be found in the VMW October 2003 article Zix signs three-year contracts with MemorialCare and John C. Lincoln Health Network for secure e-messaging.

Leslie Versweyveld

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