A coalition of technology companies and healthcare organizations known as the National ePrescribing Patient Safety Initiative announced today that it would be offering free electronic prescribing to physicians in an effort to reduce medication errors associated with writing prescriptions. Licensed physicians with computers or hand-held devices can register for the free e-prescribing today at nationaleRx.com, but the system itself wont be up and running for another 30 days.
More than 95% of pharmacies have systems to connect to this network. Aetna, Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, Dell, Google, Microsoft Corp. and Sprint Nextel Corp. are among the 11 companies sponsoring this effort, which will require a combined $100 million investment over the next five years.
Glen Tullman, chairman and chief executive officer of Allscripts, the developer of the e-prescribing software eRx NOW, anticipates that physicians will be encouraged to use the new product because it's free and easy to use, and that it might spur companies that already charge for e-prescribing to also offer their products for free.
"Organizations used to charge for AOL, and now you can get that for free," Tullman noted.
Clearly, sponsors such as Microsoft have a vested interest in getting more physicians to use computers. However, "This is also good news for us because more electronics make for better healthcare," Tullman said.
Medication errors injure 1.5 million Americans and contribute to 7,000 deaths per year, the Institute of Medicine estimates. Yet, only one in five physicians actually use e-prescribing, said Nancy Dickey, president of the Texas A&M Health Science Center, who along with former CMS Administrator Mark McClellan and Newt Gingrich, founder of the Center for Health Transformation, spoke at a news conference about the program.
It's unclear where physician groups stand on this initiative, although Dickey said it was "safe to assume" the coalition was in discussions with the American Medical Association. AMA officials were unavailable for comment at deadline.