Manchester, N.H. – Physicians in New Hampshire are being offered a variety of incentives to participate in a statewide e-prescribing program, the latest initiative by the Blue Cross Blue Shield organization designed to improve patient safety, control costs and reduce medication errors. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in New Hampshire and the New Hampshire Citizens Health Initiative, created by Gov. John Lynch, launched a statewide electronic prescribing, or e-prescribing, program for every physician office in the Granite State, reports the insurer.  This follows the announcement made in February by Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) of Illinois to expand its e-prescribing initiative throughout Illinois. In January, Anthem BCBS announced it would expand the effort in Ohio. Those efforts are ongoing. More than 3 billion prescriptions are written annually in the United States, with medication errors resulting in $77 billion in costs and 7,000 deaths per year (Institute of Medicine, 2006). Yet fewer than 22% of physicians nationwide use the basic capabilities of electronic prescribing, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  CMS estimates that the use of such technology could eliminate as many as 2 million harmful drug events each year. Electronic prescribing pilots have demonstrated that up to 2% of all prescriptions transmitted this way are changed before being administered to the patient because e-prescribing has alerted the physician to potential safety problems.  E-prescribing enables a licensed practitioner to generate a prescription electronically, and then transmit it to a pharmacy. Through this new program, Anthem is offering physicians access to free e-prescribing software, a free mobile pocket PC and a discounted wireless telecommunication plan that will enable them to access real-time patient eligibility, formulary and medication history information from any Internet-enabled PC, or anywhere a cell phone signal is available. Physicians with these tools can write and renew prescriptions anytime, anywhere, for all of their patients, not just Anthem members. “Physicians will now have ample information at their fingertips to help them ensure the safety of their patients, to work more efficiently and to save their patients money on prescriptions,” says Lisa Guertin, president, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in New Hampshire.  Last fall, Gov. Lynch announced his goal to make New Hampshire the first state in the nation where all prescribing health care providers are able to prescribe medication electronically.  “Electronic prescribing will help ensure patients get the best possible medication to meet their needs. That will reduce medical errors, save lives and reduce health care costs,” he said. “That is why, working through the Citizens Health Initiative, I’ve made electronic prescribing a priority. This effort will help us meet our goals of making New Hampshire the first state in the nation where all health care providers are able to prescribe medication electronically.” The Anthem e-prescribing program, supported by Sprint and the National E-prescribing Patient Safety Initiative, will include access to a patient’s eligibility, formu aries, adverse drug event alerts and medication history, including medications prescribed by physicians outside of the practice. Most electronic medical record (EMR) systems have e-prescribing capability, however, to date, that technology has not been widely used, and often has not supported the ePrescribing process, reports the insurer. In addition to accessing e-prescribing via EMR systems, prescribers can use smart phone/personal digital assistant devices or stand-alone, Web-based applications. “Not only is this program expected to help reduce medical errors and improve patient safety by providing drug-specific information, it also will help eliminate confusion among drug names and improve communication between physicians and pharmacists,” says Elizabeth Malko, M.D., medical director, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in New Hampshire.  The technology also will allow physicians to send new prescriptions to the pharmacy of the patient’s choice, as well as process refill requests from those same pharmacies. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in New Hampshire is working with a number of organizations to implement the program, including: 

  • The New Hampshire Citizens Health Initiative
  • National E-prescribing Patient Safety Initiative
  • Sprint
  • RxHub LLC, which is providing the technology infrastructure that supports the secure exchange of patient-specific prescribing information between physicians and pharmacy benefit managers, and the transmission of the electronic prescriptions to mail-order pharmacies;
  • SureScripts, operators of the Pharmacy Health Information Exchange, which facilitates the electronic connection between community pharmacies and physicians; and
  • Anthem’s pharmacy benefit management company, which plays a key role by helping to ensure physician access to information, including benefits, eligibility, formularies and medication history.

 Information about the program was mailed to all New Hampshire physicians in late August. Those who adopt the program will be provided with orientation and training from Anthem. Participating providers who enter into a two-year service agreement with Sprint also will receive a free hand-held device courtesy of Sprint (The HTC 6800 Windows Mobile Device). Sources: Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, INN news archives

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