Electronic Rx moves coast to coast

September 29, 2003

Electronic Rx moves coast to coast

Rhode Island’s project isn’t the only high-profile test of e-prescribing. MedStar Health, a health system serving the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore region, began a one-year pilot in February to test a Web-based e-prescribing system from DrFirst, a Maryland-based health care technology vendor.

The system works like this: Doctors can gain instant access to formulary information from members of the Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare, a not-for-profit group of health plans and networks. A physician also can check for allergy warnings, drug interactions and then transmit a secure message to the vendor, who then sends the prescription via a fax server, said Peter Basch, medical director of the e-Health Initiative for MedStar Health. Peter Kaufman, CMO for DrFirst, said the system can already transmit prescriptions directly to Giant supermarket pharmacies. The system will be live with CVS and/or Rite Aid pharmacies within the next few weeks, with other national chains to follow this fall, Kaufman said.

First quarter findings from the pilot showed that the system helped prescribers flag one of out 73 prescription orders as a significant mistake. About 25% of prescriptions also were changed to an in-formulary alternative, and 93% of prescriptions were either written as generics or changed to a generic, according to Basch.

DrFirst also scored a one-year deal with Kaiser Permanente for physicians in 29 medical centers in the Mid-Atlantic region to check for drug interactions, allergies and send prescriptions electronically. Physicians at Kaiser’s Woodbridge, Va. office are using handheld computers to test the service, and more than 90% of the physicians in that office are using it, according to Kaufman.

Physicians and medical residents at Glenridge Medical Center in Maryland, the medical practice of Prince George’s Hospital, are also using DrFirst’s technology to check for drug interactions, create patient medication lists and order medications. The 50-physician practice has been doing e-prescribing for about a year, according to Caroline Samuels, acting medical director of the Glenridge practice.

These data are displayed to the physician in a nonintrusive manner that doesn’t slow the physician down when he or she is writing a prescription, says John Bartos, president of DrFirst, a vendor of prescribing and other electronic systems, which has a pilot program with CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield.

DrFirst also provides the industries best text messaging for physicians, hospitals and EMR/EHR vendors.