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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts to Require e-Prescribing to Qualify for its Physician Incentive Programs

CONTACT: Tara Murray
(617) 246-4851

BCBSMA will support new technology licenses for many new program participants in recognition of the technology's ability to improve quality and affordability of care

BOSTON — October 28, 2008 — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA) today announced it is requiring physicians who prescribe medications to electronically prescribe in order to qualify for any of its physician incentive programs effective January 1, 2011. BCBSMA is introducing this initiative in an effort to continuously improve the quality, affordability, and efficiency of care for its members. The new requirement applies to both primary care physicians and specialists. Currently, 99 percent of primary care physicians in the HMO Blue Network and 78 percent of specialists participate in BCBSMA incentive plans.

BCBSMA incentive programs reward physicians for meeting identified nationally recognized quality standards and patient safety goals. Prior to today's announcement, e-Prescribing was an optional incentive measure rather than an eligibility requirement for participating in BCBSMA incentive programs.

The new eRx requirement comes one year before the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) deadline for prescribing without penalty. Believing start-up costs continue to be a challenge for wide-spread adoption of e-Prescribing, BCBSMA plans to help doctors by supporting a number of new licenses in 2009. This helps offset the wait for the e-Prescribing incentive payouts from the CMS which begin in 2010.

"I'm incredibly proud of Massachusetts' role as the nation's leader in e-prescribing and as a star innovator of medical technology for the world. E-prescribing will save money, save time, save doctors from piles of paperwork, and most importantly, save lives. Medicare has recently made e-prescribing a condition of doing business, and we're pleased to see BCBSMA's commitment to advancing patient safety and affordability," said United States Senator, John Kerry.

According to John Fallon, Chief Physician Executive, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, "Our incentive programs are designed to reward doctors for taking steps to improve the quality of care for patients, and e-Prescribing has certainly proven to increase quality of care. As a leader in e-Health initiatives and e-Prescribing programs, Blue Cross Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts will continue to be prominent in the adoption of e-Prescribing as tool to improve the quality, safety, and affordability of care for patients while improving efficiencies for physicians."

A recent patient safety study conducted by researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute proved the impact of e-Prescribing on adverse drug events. According to the study, it was estimated that the nearly 104,000 prescriptions changed by eRx Collaborative prescribers in 2007 prevented 724 potential adverse drug events, caused by potential drug-drug or drug-allergy interactions.

In addition to making health care safer, e-Prescribing has an impact on reducing costs. The prevention of adverse drug events noted from the Dana Farber study above saved the healthcare system an estimated $630,000. At the patient level, through physician's adhering to formularies, co-payments reduce. In 2006, physicians who used an e-prescribing device were able to choose more cost-efficient drugs and saved five 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.

"e-Prescribing is a powerful technology to minimize errors, enhance workflow, and reduce costs. I fully support the BCBSMA mandate to require eligibility checking, formulary enforcement, medication history, prescription routing and pharmacy initiated renewals for all clinicians participating in BCBSMA incentive programs," said John Halamka, CIO, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School.

Seventy-one percent of eRx Collaborative prescribers say e-Prescribing saves time for office staff with the majority saving 1-2 hours each day. "With the primary care physician shortage, every additional moment doctors or their staff can dedicate to patients makes a difference," added Fallon.

Blue Cross Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is one of the founding members of the eRx Collaborative. The eRx Collaborative is dedicated to collaboratively promote and enable the use of electronic prescribing in Massachusetts to promote and enable the use of electronic prescribing in Massachusetts to improve patient safety, health care affordability, quality and delivery. Last year, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts earned the number one ranking at the second annual Safe-Rx Awards. The Safe-Rx Award is given annually by the nation's community pharmacies to the top 10 e-Prescribing states in the nation.


Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts ( ) 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.


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