Information technology vendors Allscripts Healthcare Solutions and Zix Corp. will be the key providers of electronic prescribing software for a $40 million effort by payer Wellpoint Health Networks to induce nearly 19,000 doctors to add computers to their practice lives.
Wellpoint, Thousand Oaks, Calif., announced Thursday it had picked the two e-Rx vendors on the recommendation of the Healthcare and Life Sciences Group of Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, which is serving as the technology consultant to Wellpoint on the IT project.
In January, Wellpoint announced an outline of the offer, which is being extended to a selected group of about 19,000 high-prescribing physicians in California, Georgia, Missouri and Wisconsin.
Woodrow Myers, M.D., executive vice president for the healthcare quality assurance division and chief medical officer at Wellpoint, said the payer would provide the physicians with two choices, depending on their familiarity with information technology.
Some of the more tech-savvy physicians can opt for a "prescription improvement package" that includes a personal digital assistant, a wireless access point and a year's free subscription to an Rx software program.
Physicians will have their choice of using either a script-writing system from Allscripts, of Libertyville, Ill., or from Zix, of Dallas. Either system will be loaded on a Dell Axim X3i PDA with a Windows mobile-based Pocket PC operating system. The PDA comes with built-in wireless (Wi-Fi) capability.
As an alternative to the PDA-based setup, Wellpoint also is offering to physicians with basic IT needs what it calls a "paperwork reduction package" consisting of a free Dell desktop personal computer and an Internet connection. The computers will afford physicians a portal to do online clinical research as well as perform insurance eligibility checks, claims-status queries and medical policy reviews, Myers said.
Wellpoint also plans to offer e-prescribing to the doctors who pick the desktop package, but "it probably won't be free," Myers said.
Some physicians already are writing e-scripts under the pilot version of the project, Myers said. The rest of the physicians who submit their orders for the prescribing package should start receiving them in a couple of weeks, he said.
Early returns indicate more physicians are opting for the desktop packages, Myers said, but he expects requests for the e-Rx package will pick up now that the software vendors have been identified.
"We're making it convenient to do the right thing," Myers said. "I hope it's going to help save us lives."