Prescription drug management solution successful in first year

October 10, 2005

OWINGS MILLS, MD – Encouraging results in its pilot program to provide handheld devices to enable its physicians to transmit prescriptions electronically have prompted CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield to extend the demonstration project into a second year.

Last August, CareFirst began providing free personal digital assistants (PDAs) to 500 primary care physicians, pediatricians and internists in CareFirst’s provider networks who wrote the highest number of prescriptions. CareFirst partnered with DrFirst, whose Rcopia software enables participating physicians to confidentially electronically transmit prescriptions or prescription renewals directly to their patients’ pharmacies.

The program’s goal to improve patient safety has paved the way to better formulary compliance and avoidance of mis-fills, where the pharmacist misreads the physician’s handwriting on the prescription and fills it incorrectly.

The software also automatically alerts physicians to potentially dangerous drug/drug and drug/allergy interactions from the medications they have prescribed. In August, for example, Rcopia intercepted 546 prescriptions that could have resulted in adverse reactions to patients. The software also allows physicians access to a patient’s medication history for the past 10 years.

“The success we have seen with this pilot program convinces us that we should extend it into a second year,” said Eric R. Baugh, M.D., Senior Vice President, Medical Affairs and Network Management. “CareFirst has been tracking the number of transactions between physicians and pharmacies, as well as calculating savings resulting from the program, and we are seeing significant improvements.”

Although the demonstration project took several months to recruit and familiarize participating physicians and their staffs in the use of the new equipment, utilization of the PDAs began to increase sharply earlier this year. Over the last year, more than 387,000 have been written and usage is growing steadily. In July and August, nearly 87,000 “e-prescriptions” were transmitted.

As of August, CareFirst estimates savings of almost $624,000 from the e-prescribing initiative, based on a reduction of ADE’s (Adverse Drug Events) resulting in improved patient safety. The system transmits legible prescriptions directly to pharmacies, minimizing the number of phone calls and faxes that often flow between providers and pharmacies. Some physicians and their staffs spend up to three hours a day on pharmacy issues.

The physicians participating in the program can use the system for all patients, not just those with health insurance coverage from CareFirst. CareFirst will continue to pay software licensing fees for those physicians who have met certain eligibility criteria.

Of the 500 physicians originally enrolled in the demonstration last August, about 300 used their PDAs enough to qualify to have CareFirst pay for the software license. Those eligible include physicians who averaged at least 50 prescriptions monthly over the course of the 12-month program and who averaged 50 monthly prescriptions over the last three months of the program. Those physicians who fell short of the eligibility may retain their PDAs but will have to pay a special discounted rate to renew their Rcopia subscription.

The CareFirst and DrFirst ePrescribing program was also recognized by QUALCOMM, Inc. on September 27 as one of the winners of the 3rd annual 3G A-List Awards for the innovative use of wireless technology in its e-prescribing effort. A-List solutions demonstrate creativity and exceed business objectives by introducing higher ROI, lower operating expenses, or increased user satisfaction.

In its 70th year of service, CareFirst, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is a not-for-profit health care company which, through its affiliates and subsidiaries, offers a comprehensive portfolio of health insurance products and administrative services to more than 3.3 million individuals and groups in Northern Virginia, the District of Columbia, Maryland and Delaware. Through its CareFirst Commitment initiative and other public mission activities, CareFirst supports efforts to increase the accessibility, affordability, safety and quality of health care throughout its market areas.

DrFirst also provides leading edge secure messaging platforms for physicians, hospitals and EMR/EHR vendors.


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