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WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT Efforts by retail pharmacies and pharmacy groups to spur the adoption of electronic-prescribing technology among the nation’s technology-averse physicians are nothing new. Nor are collaborative campaigns that enlist pharmacies and technology vendors. But a joint campaign to speed e-prescribing by a pharmacy benefits manager and a health insurer? That’s a far less frequent occurrence. And it speaks volumes about the self-evident value that paperless prescribing in particular — and electronic patient record-keeping in general — will bring to America’s disconnected, dysfunctional healthcare system.
(THE NEWS: Medco teams up with Ohio insurer to speed conversion to e-prescribing. For the full story, click here)
The push to encourage e-prescribing among Ohio’s prescribing physicians makes smart business sense. And the people who run PBM giant Medco Health Solutions and the insurance firm involved in the partnership, Medical Mutual of Ohio, are astute enough to see the benefits that will rapidly accrue to both their companies with the nationwide adoption of e-prescribing and health information technology.
For one thing, said Robert Rzewnicki, Medical Mutual’s chief medical officer, e-prescribing fosters “payer-physician collaboration” and “leads to cost-effective, quality care.” It’s also “a proven way of enhancing patient safety while reducing the administrative cost and lightening the workload in physician’s offices,” he said.
It’s long been noted that paperless prescribing — along with the electronic communication and storage of prescriptions and other patient data, including medical histories, allergic-reaction profiles and lab results by all the health providers and stakeholders involved in a patient’s therapy and wellness — knocks down the silos that still dominate too much of the healthcare network and prevent a more cost-effective, integrated approach to successful outcomes. Medco and Medical Mutual noted in a joint statement, “At least 1.5 million preventable adverse drug events occur each year in the United States, according to a 2006 report by the Institute of Medicine.” And e-prescribing, they added, “can reduce that number by putting critical clinical information at the fingertips of physicians where it can do the most good— at the point of care.”
That leads to real cost savings for insurers picking up the tab for adverse drug events and other clinical misadventures. And providing formulary information to doctors as they write a prescription electronically, Medco points out, also can curb costs for patients, health plan payers and PBMs by “increasing the use of generics and preferred drugs.”