IT’S A $3 MILLION BET on the value of electronic prescribing by physicians. Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield of New Jersey and Caremark Rx are teaming up to subsidize the cost to convert 700 physicians onto electronic prescription systems.
The $3 million subsidy will cover the cost to provide a PDA (personal digital assistant), a printer, iScribe’s prescribing software package, installation, and training. The program is targeting the 700 physicians who generate the largest volume of prescriptions in Horizon’s provider network.
The new prescribing tools will support three primary functions. First, the prescription will be electronically transmitted to a printer in the physician’s office and to selected pharmacies equipped to receive the transmission. Second, the software package enables the physician to check for drug interactions at the point of care. Third, the system will perform compliance checks.
Value of E-Prescribing
This is Horizon’s second attempt to encourage physicians to prescribe through an electronic system. In 2000-01, it offered an e-prescribing initiative to which only 90 physicians responded. A lack of effective training of both physicians and office staff was one reason that participation was not better.
It will cost Horizon and Caremark Rx an average of about $43,000 per physician to provide the system and training. The willingness to subsidize costs of this magnitude to encourage e-prescribing by physicians demonstrates how much value will accrue from e-prescribing arrangements.
Savings Justify The Expense
Obviously Horizon and Caremark have calculated the savings. It is expected e- prescribing will reduce errors from illegible handwriting. There will be fewer adverse patient events caused by either the physician prescribing the wrong prescription or failing to anticipate negative drug interactions and negative side effects. Of course, another benefit is that the system is digitally capturing prescribing activity, which leads to more accurate clinical records and the ability to more precisely measure outcomes and conduct clinical studies.
Most lab managers and pathologists will make the obvious connection between e-prescribing and electronic ordering of laboratory tests. Horizon’s initiative, and the growing numbers of physicians willing to use e-prescribing, are market forces which convert physicians away from paper Rx pads and lab requisitions and onto computer-based systems. The process of conversion from paper to computer screens is gathering momentum.