PHARMACY

Mass. BCBS becomes first insurance company to partner with Google Health

BY Drew Buono

BOSTON Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts has teamed up with Google Health to expand options for members who want to create their own Personal Health Record. BCBSMA is the first health insurance company to sign an agreement to integrate on the Google Health platform.

After the integration is complete, BCBSMA members can import their claims data into their Google Health profile safely and securely.

Cleve Killingsworth, chairman and chief executive officer of BCBSMA, said “we believe Google Health will be an important tool used by our members to improve the safety and effectiveness of their health care.” Killingsworth added that the partnership demonstrates BCBSMA’s continuing leadership in using technology to make health care better. He pointed to BCBSMA’s funding of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative and its role as a founding member of the Massachusetts eRx Collaborative.

Integration with the Google Health product is expected to be completed by the fall. Google Health, a free service, will be offered to BCBSMA members at that time. To ensure confidentiality and patient choice, members will have to elect to start a Google Health Account and authorize the import and sharing of their BCBSMA claims data with Google Health.

Once this sharing relationship is established, Google Health will, according to BCBSMA, give its members the ability to:

  • Organize, store and manage their medical records and personal health information online in one secure location, including BCBSMA claims data;
  • Download medical records and prescription history from other connected providers, such as retail pharmacies, Pharmacy Benefit Managers, labs and doctors offices;
  • Share their medical information with providers and or third party services they may offer customized services;
  • Learn about important health issues and potential drug-to-drug interactions;
  • Search for a doctor or hospital online.

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PHARMACY

NCPA aims for 75 percent community pharmacy membership

BY Antoinette Alexander

ALEXANDRIA, Va. With the Presidential campaign and Senate bill 3101 looming overhead, the National Community Pharmacists Association has reached a “historic juncture,” according to Bruce Roberts, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the NCPA. Looking to give independent pharmacy a greater voice, the association has announced an aggressive membership campaign.

“We have the opportunity to define this industry in a positive way and for us all to sit back in the years to come and say we really made a difference,” said Roberts. “We can’t do that with just a small subset of the industry carrying the load. So we are going to make a major push to get the community pharmacists engaged in membership—we need to have the support of all of the industry.”

The organization currently has a membership of about 50 percent—or 12,000 members—of independent community pharmacy. The goal: To have, one year from now, about 75 percent of pharmacy owners as “engaged” members of the association.

As part of the campaign, the association will work to contact every non-member nationwide “in every possible way” including email, snail mail and telephone. The association will also work with current members, buying groups, wholesalers, etc. to reinforce the importance of being a member and encourage participation among non-members.

NCPA also plans to improve member benefits. Specific details were not disclosed but the improvements are expected to have a direct impact on members’ bottom line, and will help members attract quality employees, and attract and retain new customers.

“The one thing we will be doing beyond just asking folks to be members is we want to get them engaged. We have to have community pharmacists around the country engaged in a significant way,” said Roberts.

Serving as a slice of evidence of the success that can be achieved if community pharmacy works together is Senate bill 3101. The legislation includes provisions requiring prompt payment to pharmacies in Medicare Part D as well as a delay to the new AMP reimbursement.

“Just on this Senate bill we facilitated over 7,000 phone calls from pharmacists to Congress over the course of the last 24 hours,” said Roberts. “So for me, and the reason I become so passionate about this, is because I have seen the tremendous success we have had in just the little bit of work we have done and I can only image how successful we can be if we can get to that goal of having 75 percent of community pharmacists in the country as members—not only as members but engaged.”

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Interferon may assist with weight loss

BY Alaric DeArment

AMARILLO, Texas Researchers at Amarillo Biosciences made a surprising discovery during tests of the autoimmune disease and fibromyalgia drug interferon, the company announced Wednesday.

In a study of 582 women, given one of five low doses of oral interferon or a placebo, a significant number of women given two of the doses experienced at least 5 percent weight loss. In response, Amarillo has filed a patent with the Patent and Trademark Office for the use of oral interferon to treat obesity.

Amarillo announced that it plans to conduct further studies. The Amarillo, Texas-based company is also researching the use of low-dose, oral interferon to treat chronic cough, influenza and opportunistic infections in people with HIV.

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