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Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield study estimates e-prescriptions could save money and lives

July 16, 2010 By: Nadia Category: HealthCare, Medicine Advice, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings

www.Medtipster.com Source: The Post Standard – by Charley Hannagan – 7.14.2010

A study released Tuesday estimates that 35 deaths a year could be prevented in Upstate New York if more doctors sent prescriptions electronically to pharmacies.

Yet, less than a quarter of the doctors nationally, and in Upstate, e-prescribe.

The study by Excellus BlueCross Blue Shield shows that 24.3 percent of doctors and 20.6 percent of physicians assistants in Upstate electronically send prescriptions to pharmacies, called e-prescriptions. In Central New York, the number drops to 21.8 percent of doctors and 17.3 percent of physician assistants.

E-prescribing is important to keep patients safe, prevent prescription forgeries, save money and make the system more efficient, said Dr. Arthur Vercillo, of Excellus.

“You can try and write as neatly as possible on a prescription form, but the call-backs (from pharmacists seeking clarification) still come in,” he said.

The study estimates that if all doctors sent e-prescriptions, and acted on the alerts provided about drug interactions, it would prevent 35 deaths, 161 permanent disabilities, 391 emergency room visits and 449 hospitalizations.

If doctors followed the generic prescription recommendations that pop up when they e-prescribe just 1 percent of the time, it could cut health care spending in Upstate by $64 million, Vercillo said.

The federal government is encouraging doctors to computerize patient medical records to make the system more efficient. E-prescribing is one part of that.

The federal government offers incentives to doctors to e-prescribe.

Excellus also offers an incentive to doctors to e-prescribe as a part of a package of incentives, Vercillo said.

Yet only about 25 percent of doctors nationally e-prescribe even though 85 percent of the pharmacies nationwide can accept e-prescriptions, according to Excellus.

Among other advantages are it allows doctors to retrieve a patient’s prescription history, it prevents forgeries and patients from going to many different doctors for the same prescription and it allows doctors to see a patient’s insurance coverage for drugs.

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