CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Have you ever struggled to read the instructions written on a prescription drug pad? If you're a pharmacist, imagine never again having to decipher the handwriting of hundreds of different doctors. If you're a doctor, imagine having your patients' medication history at your fingertips. And for patients, wouldn't it be great to find your prescription waiting for you when you walk into your pharmacy, to know your share of the drug cost in advance and be confident that it won't interact with your other medications?
These scenarios are soon to become reality in North Carolina as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) rolls out ePrescribe, a new program to promote and fund the adoption of electronic prescribing to a select group of physicians.
"We are proud to be the first health insurer in North Carolina to put financial resources behind promoting technology that clearly represents the future of medication prescribing," said Bob Greczyn, BCBSNC president and CEO. "Electronic prescribing works with most health plans. We believe so strongly that it will improve prescription accuracy and lower prescription drug costs for all North Carolinians that we are investing in its adoption among the medical practices most likely to benefit from it."
Through the ePrescribe program, BCBSNC will fund the technology and setup required for 1000 primary care physicians who routinely write a large volume of prescriptions. These select doctors will be issued electronic prescribing software licenses, handheld personal digital assistants (PDAs) and wireless network hardware, free of charge. To encourage rapid adoption of the technology, physicians will also be offered a one-time upload of their patients' medical information, along with product training, implementation and consulting. BCBSNC will collaborate with DrFirst, a leader in electronic prescribing technology to deploy the ePrescribe program during 2006.
Saving Money. Saving Time.
It's estimated that electronic prescribing will generate drug cost savings of approximately $250 per doctor per month because of increased use of generics, avoidance of unnecessary or inappropriate prescriptions and other efficiencies. With a physician network in all 100 North Carolina counties, BCBSNC and its members could save millions of dollars in medical costs when the technology is fully deployed across the state. Electronic prescribing pilot programs in Massachusetts found that physicians report a time savings of up to two hours a day. Thirty-five percent of physicians also reported positive patient care benefits such as increased accuracy and the ability to check for drug interactions.
"I can't imagine any other way to prescribe medication, especially when it comes to refills and prescription renewals," said Dr. Dean Blakeley, a convert to electronic prescribing four years ago. "I have over 5500 patient encounters a year and I couldn't manage that load without the efficiency and accuracy that electronic prescribing gives me. It saves me time and I think it makes me a better doctor."
As patients take a more active role in managing their health care costs, understanding drug treatment options is becoming increasingly important. Electronic prescribing allows physicians and patients to explore and discuss medication choices and costs, at the point of care, before the prescription is written. With the touch of a button or the tap of a stylus, physicians are able to access a patient's medical and drug history, allergies and health plan drug formulary. Having this information readily available allows a doctor to prescribe a drug that will not interact with the patient's current drug regimen, as well as look for options within the patient's health plan formulary. Patients can take a more active role in managing health care costs by seeing the cost implications of various drug choices while their doctor is present to discuss these options with them.
"We know that prescription management can be complicated and time consuming for the physician and the patient," said Dr. Robert T. Harris, BCBSNC chief medical officer. "Electronic prescribing significantly simplifies the process and lets doctors check for adverse drug interactions and allergies at the point of prescribing, which improves patient safety and enhances efficiency. It also prompts consideration of generic drugs where appropriate, which will ultimately lower health care costs."
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is a leader in delivering innovative health care products, services and information to more than 3.3 million members, including approximately 638,000 served on behalf of other Blue Plans. For 72 years, the company has served its customers by offering health insurance at a competitive price and has served the people of North Carolina through support of community organizations, programs and events that promote good health. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Access BCBSNC online at
About DrFirst:
Utilizing the latest advancements in Internet, security, wireless, Web and personal digital assistant (PDA) technology, DrFirst provides the health care community with Rcopia, a full-featured stand-alone electronic prescription management system. Rcopia can be interfaced with most practice management and electronic medical records software, and it is affordable, intuitive and easily implemented into the provider's workflow. DrFirst is partnered with SureScripts, RxHub, FirstDataBank, NDC Health and Epocrates in order to ensure that their clients have access to the most reliable and up-to-date information and services. DrFirst is committed to improving health care and patient safety by delivering technologies that enable medical professionals and their staffs to quickly and easily access critical medical information at the point of care. More information about DrFirst can be found at