A small raft of health care payers and their partners have launched new campaigns to encourage physicians to write electronic prescriptions. This time, they are offering support along with free equipment, software and other incentives.
On Friday, a collaborative of three automakers sent letters to over 6,000 physicians asking them to participate in a new program: SEMI (Southeast Michigan ePrescribing Initiative), which offers physicians belonging to the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigans Blue Preferred Plus network on-site training for using electronic prescriptions. Physicians can also receive undisclosed incentives through the program as well as discounts from the auto manufacturers. Eventually, the program may be expanded to as many as 17,000 physicians.
SEMI simply provides physicians with a list of companies offering e-prescribing software, but at least two programs on the East Coast are collaborating with specific vendors. This month, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and pharmacy benefit manager Caremark Inc. announced they are providing software and hardware from Caremarks iScribe division. Some $3 million has been set aside to provide equipment for an estimated 700 physicians.
Also this month, software vendor Zix Corp. announced that the e-prescribing activity of physicians who signed up for free services had been high enough that the programs funder, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA), has authorized signing up 300 more physicians.
In e-prescribing, doctors send prescriptions to pharmacies electronically rather than handing a piece of paper to a patient. Proponents say that the practice will reduce medical mistakes as well as the effort necessary to write, fill and refill prescriptions. Health plans think it will keep costs down because physicians will be more likely to prescribe drugs on formulary lists.
Physicians have objected to e-prescribing systems, saying they cannot afford necessary technology and that writing a prescription on paper is often faster.