SEMI helps Michigan doctors go paperless

Michigan has long been regarded as one of the nation’s most proactive states in the push for adoption of e-prescribing, along with Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Nevada, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio and Washington. The state is home to the Southeastern Michigan ePrescribing Initiative, or SEMI, whose goal is to prove that doctors would actually find paperless prescribing useful once they began working with it and incorporating it into their day-to-day routine.

SEMI is a coalition involving the Big Three U.S. automakers—General Motors, Ford and Chrysler—as well as the United Auto Workers, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, CVS Caremark, SureScripts, RxHub, Medco Health Solutions, the Health Alliance Plan and Henry Ford Medical Group. The partnership was established in 2005 “to encourage the adoption and use of e-prescribing technology among Michigan physicians in order to reduce medication errors and lower health care costs,” according to a statement from SEMI.

Michigan was also the site of a major, multi-year research project involving 500 Michigan-based physicians who agreed to participate in a separate test of e-prescribing. The research results, released in 2008, revealed that 75 percent of the doctors involved in the test said paperless prescribing improved safety for their patients – and almost 70 percent said it also improves quality of care.

More than 70 percent of those physicians also saw a reduction in communications with pharmacies over prescription questions; for 40 percent, the reduction was substantial. With research indicating that physicians typically spend more that three hours a day handling phone calls and extra work from prescription issues, the time savings were considered a key benefit.

The research driving adoption of paperless prescribing is increasingly compelling. The Center for Information Technology Leadership, as one example, found that use of e-prescribing systems with a network connection to pharmacy and advanced decision-support capabilities could help prevent 130,000 life-threatening medication errors annually.

Another study, from the Medical Group Management Association’s Group Practice Research Network, estimates that “administrative complexity” arising from traditional prescribing and dispensing procedures can cost a clinical practice approximately $15,700 a year for each full-time physician on staff.

“Multiplying that figure by an estimated 555,000 office-based physicians currently practicing and prescribing medications in the United States reveals an opportunity for e-prescribing to significantly reduce the estimated $8.7 billion worth of physician and staff time spent on the phone clarifying prescription information,” noted e-prescribing solutions provider SureScripts-RxHub.

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