In an effort to promote the benefits of electronic communications among healthcare participants, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA, Boston, $81.1 million net income year to date) has teamed with Tufts Health Plan (Waltham, Mass., $2.3 billion in total revenue) and Neighborhood Health Plan of Massachusetts (Boston), a health maintenance organization, to distribute ZixCorp's (Dallas) PocketScript e-prescribing software to healthcare providers. The initiative, called the eRx collaborative, instituted in October 2003, will now offer Massachusetts physicians and their clinical staffs use of PocketScript version 5.52, the first major release of PocketScript in over a year.
Prior to October 2003, the carriers had been working separately with ZixCorp on ways to encourage physicians to adopt the original PocketScript technology, which enables physicians to write prescriptions using a wireless handheld PDA or a secure Web site. Prescriptions then are delivered directly to pharmacies, providing greater legibility, improved communication, lower costs for health plans due to an increase in preferred and generic prescribing, and improved office efficiency for carriers and providers. "Each plan was out there with its own e-prescribing pilot and we decided to pull together with each other and the vendor rather than work at cross purposes with the same physicians," explains Steve Fox, director of e-Health Care, BCBSMA. "By combining our efforts we have been able to accelerate adoption of this technology."
The latest release of the software enables connectivity with mail-order prescription facilities and pharmacies, saving time and costs for the patient, health plan and pharmacy benefit manager (PBM); automatic formulary messaging, a feature that will encourage physicians to prescribe generic and on-formulary brands; and additional logging/reporting functions. "This technology saves time with fewer callbacks to the pharmacy, streamlines the prescription process, and ultimately increases member satisfaction," says Fox. "It offers an easy way to find patient-specific drug history and lets physicians see the effect that on-formulary prescribing has on member cost sharing."
Although members of the eRx collaborative are still evaluating hard savings with member use of the e-prescribing technology, adoption rates have been increasing at a steady rate. According to Fox, at the end of 2004, 2,700 physicians had signed up for the technology and had electronically reported about 27,000 prescriptions per week in December 2004. That number had increased to over 40,000 per week by April 2005.
"It is not so much how many physicians offices accept the technology, but how many people are using it," says Fox. "So far we've found that once physicians get exposed to the technology, they pick it up quickly, seeing that it will provide positive results."