The 3,400 highest-prescribing physicians in two large Massachusetts health plans will gain access to wireless electronic prescribing technology under a $3 million initiative unveiled today.
It is the second major e-prescribing initiative for Massachusetts physicians announced this week.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Tufts Health Plan say they have reached agreements with Zix Corp., Dallas, to provide PocketScript software and service to 3,400 physicians in their networks who write large numbers of prescriptions.
Zix, which purchased PocketScript in July, will deliver the software to physicians with wireless PocketPC personal digital assistants or BlackBerry Color PDA SmartPhones.
Depending on which device each physician chooses, the $3 million will provide three to eight months of free service, according to Blues spokesperson Susan Leahy. After the free period, physicians will be charged about $50 a month, Leahy says.
"The technology has the potential to revolutionize one of the most basic parts of the medical process," says Robert Mandel, M.D., vice president of provider enrollment and services for Massachusetts Blues. "By enrolling the 3,400 physicians who write the highest volume of prescriptions for our members, we expect to improve prescription drug safety, convenience and costs for the maximum number of our members."
Tufts Health Plan spokesperson Julie Rosen says the two organizations' networks are "virtually the same," so most of the physicians participating in the e-prescribing program belong to both plans. The physicians, who will get the technology over the next two months or so, already have agreed to use the software, according to Rosen.
Rosen says that the $3 million comes from a "variety of funding sources" that Tufts Health Plan has decided not to disclose. Blues spokesperson Susan Leahy says BlueCross BlueShield's share comes from an existing company fund for quality-related programs.
Waltham, Mass.-based Tufts Health Plan has 850,000 enrollees in the state. Massachusetts Blues, headquartered in Boston, has 2.4 million enrollees and an HMO network of 15,400 physicians.
The Zix deal follows a Tuesday announcement that the Massachusetts Medical Society has become the first statewide physician organization to endorse an e-prescribing product. The society will offer its members discounted access to Rcopia, a service of Rockville, Md.-based software vendor DrFirst.
DrFirst has relationships with SureScripts and RxHub, the connectivity ventures of retail pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers, respectively.
Also on Tuesday, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health proposed standards for secure electronic transmission of prescriptions and recognition of digital signatures for authentication. Massachusetts is one of six states that require written signatures on prescriptions, so even physicians with advanced technology still must send electronic drug orders by fax.