Pittsburgh - Highmark Inc., an association of independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, is contributing $26.5 million to The Pittsburgh Foundation, which will use the funds for an electronic prescribing (ePrescribing) initiative.The foundation has created the Highmark eHealth Collaborative to encourage the adoption of health information technology used in patient care in order to improve patient safety and quality while increasing cost efficiency.

The first major project of the Highmark eHealth Collaborative is to provide funding to physicians to help reduce the initial cost of acquiring ePrescribing/eHealth Record technology for their practices.

"One of the best ways to advance health care is to make a significant investment in upgrading the infrastructure that puts the best tools in the hands of physicians," says Kenneth R. Melani, M.D., and president and chief executive officer of Highmark. "The widespread adoption of health information technology will improve patient safety, increase quality of care and decrease costs."

According to Highmark, an ePrescribing system can help ensure patient safety and reduce medical expenses by eliminating handwriting interpretation and administrative work associated with paper processing. This system can also indicate medications that could adversely interact with other drugs. It's been reported that 8.8 million adverse drug events occur each year.

In addition, the ePrescribing system will enable physicians to verify that a particular medication is on a patient's formulary program and is covered for that patient. The ePrescribing tools may be used by physicians for all their patients, regardless of their insurance coverage.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) will receive a total of $8 million to develop the ePrescribing aspect of its systemwide implementation of the electronic health record.

"The benefits of ePrescribing are that it will provide better information to clinicians, so that they may safely order medication for patients, and it will mean greater convenience for the consumer," says Daniel Martich, M.D., vice president, eRecord, UPMC.

Funding will be used to help physicians acquire and use electronic technology systems such as a personal computer, a PDA, electronic tablet or digital pen to generate and transmit electronically a prescription to the pharmacy.

The ePrescribing initiative comes in direct response to needs identified through the Highmark Health Care Cost Summit in 2004, where -- working with the RAND Corp. -- physician, hospital, business and community leaders convened to discuss health care cost issues. The implementation of electronic prescription systems and the adoption of electronic health records were identified as top priorities.

Source: Highmark Inc.

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