March 4, 2008 Representatives from the nation's community pharmacies today announced that Massachusetts ranks first in the nation for electronic prescribing for the second year in a row.
The Safe-Rx Award is given annually by the nation's community pharmacies to the top 10 e-prescribing states in the nation and to three physicians in each winning state who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in their use of e-prescribing technology. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), and SureScripts® created the Safe-Rx Awards to raise awareness of e-prescribing as a more secure, accurate and informed means of prescribing patients' medication.
The Massachusetts eRx Collaborative, of which Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA) is a founding member, was among the Massachusetts organizations recognized for their contribution to the success of e-prescribing. The eRx Collaborative is a program created to improve the quality and safety of healthcare in Massachusetts.
"This technology improves the quality, the safety and the affordability of health care," said Steve Fox, Vice President of Provider Network Management at BCBSMA. "BCBSMA believes that, as leaders in health care technology, we need to provide physicians with the education and research tools they need to integrate e-prescribing in their practice."
Last year, nearly 5 million electronic prescriptions were transmitted through the Collaborative. The program transmitted 8.4 percent more electronic prescriptions over the same period in 2006, and 13.5 million over the past four years. In addition, the eRx Collaborative deployed more than 471 new prescribers during 2007, surpassing this year's annual goal of 385 new prescribers.
The opportunity to catch potentially harmful drug-drug interactions or drug-allergy interactions is a hallmark safety feature of electronic prescribing. Last year, approximately 104,000 electronic prescriptions were changed due to drug safety alerts.
One example of a typical alert is when Zoloft and Trazodone are taken together. Patients need to be clinically monitored to avoid serious or life-threatening increases of serotonin levels in the brain. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts engaged researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Inc. to investigate the safety and economic benefits of these alerts in terms of preventing adverse drug events for patients and the potential cost savings associated with the alerts. The study is expected to be completed early in 2008.
The eRx Collaborative recently join forces with the Massachusetts Medical Society to create a Continuing Medical Education course on e-prescribing to educate providers about the benefits of e-prescribing. These types of programs, in addition to intuitive technology, training and ongoing support for physicians and their staff, are critical to ensure providers use the system in daily practice.
In 2007 these initiatives developed by the eRx Collaborative significantly impacted the quality and affordability of care for participating BCBSMA providers. BCBSMA providers who used an e-prescribing device were able to choose more cost-effective drugs and saved 5 percent on their drug costs relative to those prescribers who did not use this technology. Of that savings, BCBSMA members saved approximately $800,000 in co-payments associated with their prescriptions.
Three e-Prescribers in Massachusetts were presented with Safe-Rx Awards, including Dr. Kenneth Guarnieri, Intermed Associates in Webster, MA; Dr. Jeffrey Kleiman, Caritas Good Samaritan in Brockton; and Dr. Lorenver Po, Western Mass Physician Associates.
"These doctors recognized an innovative technology, implemented successful programs and demonstrated the benefits of e-prescribing to the health care community," said Fox. "They deserve high praise for their contribution to the improvement of the quality of health care in Massachusetts."
Last month, as part of its ongoing effort to raise the quality of health care in Massachusetts, BCBSMA announced a change to the current incentive plan for hospitals. The announcement outlined BCBSMA's decision to require hospitals to implement and utilize Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE). BCBSMA has decided to include the standards to be established by the MA CPOE Initiative as a threshold for participating in their quality and incentive programs after 2012. In 2007, 64 hospitals earned a total of $104 million through the BCBSMA hospital performance incentive program.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts ( http://www.bluecrossma.com ) was founded more than 70 years ago by a group of community-minded business leaders. Today, headquartered in Boston, BCBSMA provides coverage to more than 3 million members, 2.5 million in Massachusetts. BCBSMA believes in rewarding doctors and hospitals for delivering safe and effective care, and in empowering patients to take more responsibility, become educated health care consumers and become stronger partners with their doctors. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.