Physicians in Massachusetts soon will have direct, full-scale electronic access to pharmacies, patient-specific formularies and drug interaction warnings under an agreement between the state medical society and e-prescribing software vendor DrFirst.
DrFirst, based in Rockville, Md., says the Massachusetts Medical Society is the first statewide physician organization to endorse an e-prescribing product.
The news, announced Tuesday, coincides with a proposal by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health that effectively would legalize electronic prescribing in the state.
DrFirst, will offer its Rcopia prescribing service at a "substantial discount" to MMS members, according to society President Thomas Sullivan, M.D., who says details are still being worked out. Physicians will be able to access the technology through desktop computers or mobile devices, including personal digital assistants and tablet-type PCs.
Sullivan says the society chose DrFirst in part because of its relationships with SureScripts and RxHub, the connectivity ventures of retail pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers, respectively. RxHub provides patient medication history and instant formulary checking with PBMs, while the SureScripts Messenger application sends prescriptions directly to pharmacy computer systems, eliminating the need for error-prone transcribing.
"We think this is going to be a broad application," Sullivan says. "It automates both the front end and the back end."
DrFirst says 65% of retail pharmacies in Massachusetts will be running SureScripts Messenger by the end of the year.
For the moment, Massachusetts physicians still must send data to pharmacies via fax for a little while longer, as current regulations require pharmacists to obtain written signatures on all prescriptions. Rules proposed Tuesday would change that in the state by setting standards for secure electronic transmission of prescriptions and recognition of digital signatures for authentication.
"We expect that the functionality of these electronic prescriptions will improve in the next few weeks," Sullivan says.
The regulations are subject to public comment and approval by the state Public Health Council, but Department of Public Health spokesperson Roseanne Pawelec says final approval could come in 45 to 60 days.
"Ultimately, we would anticipate that the regulations would lead to significant reductions in medication errors and prescription fraud and thereby improve public health and safety," the department says in a written summary of the rules.