Independence Blue Cross embarks on e-Prescribing pilot to promote increased patient safety

Philadelphia 13 January 2006Independence Blue Cross is launching a new initiative to reduce drug prescribing errors and lower pharmacy costs by providing handheld electronic prescribing technology, known as e-Prescribing, to physicians in Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The Independence Blue Cross (IBC) pilot programme for e-Prescribing is in step with the Pennsylvania eHealth Initiative's ambition to build a statewide electronic patient data network that is tied into a nationwide system - a goal set by President George W. Bush's 2004 call for the health care community to switch from paper to electronic health records in the next decade.

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Physicians who participate in the pilot will be provided handheld computers, software and training so they can fill and refill prescriptions electronically. Each doctor will be able to use a PDA to view a patient's drug history, get information about each patient's insurer's list of preferred drugs (formulary), find out about prescription benefits, and read a state-of-the-art drug guide. Doctors will also be able to check for drug interactions and allergies with the PDA.

"By moving the prescription process from paper to electronics, we can offer physicians and members a more convenient and efficient way of filling and refilling prescriptions", stated Joseph A. Frick, IBC president and CEO. "But more importantly, e-Prescribing can reduce adverse drug interactions and medication errors due to illegible handwriting."

"We're pleased to partner with physicians in our e-Prescribing pilot", Mr. Frick added. "This pilot is another project in our ongoing effort to work closely with doctors and hospitals to increase IBC customers' safety and quality of care and lower their medical costs."

One of the physicians participating in the pilot is Dr. Angelo Ratini, a physician at Radcliffe Family Practice, who estimates he writes 20 to 30 prescriptions a day. "The pilot has made our office more efficient and cut the time it takes to fill and refill a prescription", stated Dr. Ratini. "It's also a big plus for our patients - they're happy that we're doing things electronically and that their prescription order is already at the pharmacy."

The e-Prescribing initiative is expected to benefit patients through:

  • Improved patient safety
  • Improved quality of care
  • Speedy and efficient filling and refilling of prescriptions
  • Potential cost savings, as physicians are provided with each patient's insurer's list of preferred drugs (formulary) and prescription benefits and are able to prescribe less costly but appropriate alternative medication

Physicians benefit through:

  • Reduced telephone and fax volume between pharmacies and physician offices
  • Less time spent on prescriptions
  • Information about drugs prescribed by other physicians to prevent adverse drug interactions
  • At-hand information about formulary and generic alternatives
  • Access to each patient's medication history, including drug allergies

Pharmacists benefit through:

  • Prevention of medical errors resulting from misinterpreting physician handwriting
  • Decrease in number of rejected prescriptions due to illegibility and drug interactions
  • Less administrative work processing paper
  • Improved efficiency by decreasing calls into and out of the pharmacy

IBC has selected two vendors for its 12-month e-Prescribing pilot programme: ZixCorp and AllScripts. Approximately 500 physicians will participate in the pilot, and IBC has invested over $1 million to deploy the e-Prescribing tools - e.g. computers and software - to these physicians. If successful, IBC will look to expand the pilot further.

The e-Prescribing pilot fits with the work of the Pennsylvania eHealth Initiative, a collaboration of over 40 health care-related organisations founded in 2005. The eHealth Initiative is working to create an electronic patient data network that will ultimately tie into a nationwide system, allowing patients and doctors to securely access medical records throughout the country.

The e-Prescribing pilot is part of IBC's ongoing strategy to partner with health care providers to improve quality, safety and cost in patient care. Most recently, IBC partnered with the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council to launch the Partnership for Patient Care, a three-year initiative to enhance patient care at the region's hospitals. IBC will contribute up to $1,25 million to support the innovative programme, which will initially focus on reducing hospital-acquired infections.

In another programme to improve patient care, IBC set up the Nurse Scholars Programme two years ago to address the serious shortage of nurses in the region. IBC partnered with the area nursing schools and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Foundation and has invested roughly $3 million in more than 1000 scholarships for nurses and nursing educators to increase the area's supply of nurses.

To provide health care for the uninsured, IBC began the Charitable Medical Grant Programme last year and has provided over $4,7 million in grants to 25 private clinics to provide uninsured adults and children access to regular medical care to avoid unnecessarily burdening emergency rooms.

AllScripts Healthcare Solutions, headquartered in Illinois, is a provider of clinical software, connectivity and information solutions that physicians use to improve health care. Zix Corporation provides easy-to-use-and-deploy e-communication services that protect, manage, and deliver sensitive information. Its eHealth services improve patient care, reduce costs and improve efficiency through e-Prescribing and e-lab solutions. The company is based in Texas.

Independence Blue Cross is the leading health insurer in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Nationwide, IBC and its affiliates provide coverage to nearly 3,4 million people. For more than 65 years, Independence Blue Cross has offered quality health care products and services tailored to meet the changing needs of members, employers, groups and providers.

Independence Blue Cross recently received the highest ratings from the National Committee for Quality Assurance for its HMO and PPO health care plans. In addition, earlier this year, Independence Blue Cross's Personal Choice was rated the No. 1 PPO in the nation and its Keystone HMO was ranked the No. 1 HMO in the region by health care consumers in a leading independent consumer magazine.


Leslie Versweyveld

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