Insurer offers free PCs and PDAs, hoping to spur tech adoption by doctors

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee, Senior Writer, InformationWeek

January 16, 2004

1 Min Read

A few insurers are trying to lure doctors into the digital age. The latest--and largest--effort is from health insurer WellPoint Health Networks Inc., which last week offered to give 19,000 physicians free PDAs or PCs.

The technology, which will cost WellPoint $30 million and would retail for about $40 million, will let doctors in WellPoint's Blue Cross and Blue Shield networks in California, Georgia, Missouri, and Wisconsin reduce paperwork or file prescriptions electronically.

Insurers are convinced that having doctors use business technology will cut costs while improving care. But some doctors doubt they will see the savings and are reluctant to bear the expense.

WellPoint is offering doctors a Dell Pocket PC with Microsoft E-prescription software, which works with the five most common physician-practice-management packages. "We want to jump-start E-prescribing," WellPoint CIO Ron Ponder says. The other option, aimed at reducing paperwork, is a Dell desktop PC with an Internet link for processing medical claims.

Less than 5% of the estimated 3 billion prescriptions ordered annually by doctors in their offices are done electronically, Ponder says, and an estimated 15% of paper or phone prescriptions contain errors, many related to illegible handwriting or verbal misunderstandings. About 40% of conventional prescriptions require pharmacists to call with clarifications, he says.

WellPoint's offer follows similar efforts. CareGroup Healthcare System in Boston last week said it would equip 500 doctors with Zix Corp.'s PocketScript technology as part of the eRX Collaborative, founded by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Tuft Health Plan to subsidize E-prescriptions.

About the Author(s)

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee

Senior Writer, InformationWeek

Marianne Kolbasuk McGee is a former editor for InformationWeek.

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