WellPoint Starts E-Prescribing

PDAs for electronic prescriptions are being provided to member physicians by what will soon become the largest health insurer in the United States.

One of the largest health plans in the United States, WellPoint Health Networks Inc., is moving ahead with its implementation of electronic prescriptions. The adoption of e-prescribing by WellPoint may well encourage more health plans to adopt the technology.

Originally announced in October, the company is expected to merge later this year with health care insurer Anthem Inc. The combined company will be the largest health insurance provider in the United States with more than 27 million members.

WellPoint is investing $40 million into electronic prescriptions and has been working with Microsofts Healthcare and Life Sciences Group as a consultant on the implementation.

At no cost to physicians, WellPoints initiative will offer participating doctors a wireless, handheld electronic prescribing unit, a wireless access point and a one-year subscription to an e-prescribing service, all of which will allow physicians to electronically generate prescriptions while reducing administrative costs and improving their communications with patients and pharmacists.

Physicians will be able to write prescriptions that can be electronically transmitted to the pharmacy of their choice. Almost 19,000 contracting WellPoint network physicians in California, Georgia, Missouri and Wisconsin have been invited to participate in this program.

Late last week, WellPoint and Microsoft announced the selection of vendors for the e-prescribing initiative. Chicago-based Allscripts Healthcare Solutions was tapped for its TouchScript e-prescribing application, which will be installed on Dell Axim X3i Windows Mobile-based Pocket PC devices connected directly to the Internet via Cisco Aironet wireless access points.

In addition to using the software on Pocket PCs, physicians and their staff will be able to access TouchScript via a browser from any PC in their practice and even remotely from their home.

Zix Corporation, a Dallas-based provider of e-messaging protection and transaction services, was also selected by WellPoint and Microsoft. ZixCorps PocketScript software lets physicians write prescriptions that can be electronically transmitted to the pharmacy of their choice. PocketScript includes point-of-care data for multiple drug formularies, customized drug lists and drug reference guides, optimized communication between doctors and pharmacies, and detailed tracking and reporting tools.

A recent report produced by the nonprofit advocacy group Foundation for eHealth Initiative estimates that nationwide implementation of e-prescribing technologies could save the health care system $29 billion a year by reducing medication errors, decreasing duplication of services and increasing use of generic drugs, ultimately improving the quality of patient care.

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