Health Insurer Gives Away Hardware To Boost E-Prescriptions

WellPoint is giving away PDAs and PCs to 19,000 physicians in an effort to increase the number of doctors who write prescriptions electronically.
In a major effort to increase the number of U.S. doctors writing drug prescriptions electronically and to eliminate paperwork, health insurer WellPoint is giving away free to 19,000 physicians their choice of PDAs or PCs valued at a total of $40 million.

The 19,000 WellPoint network doctors receiving the free technology though WellPoint's Blue Cross and Blue Shield units in California, Georgia, Missouri, and Wisconsin handle about 75% of the office visits by WellPoint's patients, says WellPoint CIO Ron Ponder. WellPoint is also making available to 92,000 other network doctors discounted PC or PDA packages from Dell.

The doctors are also permitted to also use the computers for processes related to other health insurers with which they work, says Ponder.

Doctors have their choice of two technology packages. The "prescription improvement package" includes a Dell Pocket PC loaded with Microsoft E-prescription software, which can interface with five of the most common physician practice-management packages used by doctors, Ponder says. That package also contains software tools for doctors to improve quality of patient care.

The second choice, the paperwork-reduction package, includes a Dell desktop PC with Internet connections for processing medical claims.

All offerings are HIPAA-compliant, WellPoint application development officer Anil Koptoor says.

"We want to jump-start E-prescribing," says Ponder, who adds that less than 5% of the estimated 3 billion prescription ordered by doctors in their offices are electronic. Ponder says it's estimated that 15% of all those paper or phone prescriptions annually contain errors, many related to illegible handwriting or verbal misunderstandings. Also, about 40% of traditional prescriptions require pharmacists to make phone calls to doctor offices for clarification.

Using the E-prescription PDAs, doctors can wirelessly send prescriptions to network access points, from which they can be transmitted to E-prescription clearinghouse RxHub, which then transmits the prescription electronically to pharmacies. The E-prescription can also be transmitted to Microsoft, which will route the prescription by fax to pharmacies that can't receive the prescriptions electronically. Formulary updates are also downloaded to the PDAs, so that doctors have the most current drug information related to specific coverage.

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