Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey and pharmacy benefit manager Caremark Rx are offering $3 million to subsidize the costs for 700 physicians to use electronic prescribing.
The two companies will pay for startup costs, including a free personal digital assistant, a printer, iScribe e-prescribing software, installation, and training for physicians who write the highest number of prescriptions in the payer's network.
The e-prescribing tools will be able to send a prescription to a printer in the physician's office or send it electronically to a selected pharmacy, according to the companies. The tools also will be able to perform drug interaction checks at the point of care and will check on compliance, said Jay Patel, a pharmacist and Horizon's manager of business development.
The aim of the subsidy program is to remove cost as a barrier to adoption of e-prescribing, which Patel said should improve the quality of care.
He said the company took its lumps in a prior e-prescribing initiative in 2000 and 2001 that attracted only about 90 doctors. This time there will be better training on the system for the physicians and office support staff, and improved field support. The company also is being pickier in selecting physicians for the program, with 114 doctors who are ready to go or have passed the requirements to receive the software and whose offices are already installed. "A handful are already using it," Patel said.
WellPoint previously offered physicians the choice of a PDA-based prescription-writing system or a PC for use with an electronic billing system. Through March, 86% of the 19,000 physicians who joined the program chose the computer-billing system package while 14% chose e-prescribing, according to a WellPoint spokeswoman. About 200 physicians are active users.
The holy grail for e-prescribing technology is to have computers in physicians' offices and at pharmacies create two-way channels of connection. Although the iScribe system "is definitely capable of doing that," Patel says, "right now, a lot of the pharmacies are not wired to do it computer-to-computer."