Allscripts-Backed Group Promises Free E-Prescribing Software

By Neil VerselJanuary 22, 2007 | By the end of the month, all U.S. physicians should be able to write electronic prescriptions for free, promises a coalition of technology vendors, payers, and large physician groups.

The group, headed by electronic health records (EHR) provider Allscripts (Chicago), will spend at least $100 million over the next five years to make the technology available nationwide. Advocates cite Institute of Medicine statistics that blame preventable medication errors for 7,000 deaths and 1.5 million injuries each year. “Our first objective is to equip every physician in the United States with e-prescribing software that is free,” Allscripts chief executive Glen Tullman said Tuesday at a Washington, D.C., press conference. The profit motive can come later, he said.

The login page is keeping a running tally of errors avoided and estimated dollars saved.

Joining Allscripts in what is being called the National E-Prescribing Patient Safety Initiative (NEPSI) are computer manufacturers Dell and Fujitsu, as well as Microsoft, Cisco Systems, and, for real-time mobile access to the service, cellular provider Sprint Nextel. Wolters Kluwer Health will provide drug-interaction checking, while SureScripts is taking responsibility for connecting prescribers to pharmacies, either by fax or by direct electronic link. Google is embedding a custom search engine for healthcare embedded in the product, organizers said, but few details were immediately available.

Several payers and large, regional healthcare providers have joined as well. “This is the most significant coalition of stakeholders ever to address medication errors,” said Nancy W. Dickey, M.D., vice chancellor for health affairs at the Texas A&M University System and a former president of the American Medical Association.

By Jan. 31, all licensed prescribers nationwide should be able to access the Web-based Allscripts software called eRx NOW, the organizers say. Dickey estimates that most users should be able to complete the online training in 15 to 30 minutes, then start writing electronic scripts on either a PC or personal digital assistant.

“2007 is the year to stop simply talking about e-prescribing and start taking action,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who may seek the 2008 Republican nomination for president with a promise to modernize healthcare.

Though the software does include real-time interaction checking and, depending on the patient’s health plan, formulary information, most users will have to find a third party to -integrate the Allscripts software with existing practice management and billing systems. “That’s probably the thorniest problem here,” Tullman says, though he says that eRx NOW is “fully interoperable,” based on current certification standards for ambulatory EHRs.

Find full article here at www.health-itworld.com

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