SOURCE: Surescripts

September 21, 2006 09:00 ET

Electronic Prescribing Now Legal in Georgia

New State Regulations Allow for Safer, More Efficient E-Prescribing

Healthcare Leaders Launch Campaign to Help Georgia Physicians and Pharmacists "Get Connected" to Reduce Medication Errors and Eliminate Needless and Costly Paperwork

ATLANTA, GA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- September 21, 2006 -- Physicians and pharmacists in the State of Georgia are now legally allowed to transmit prescriptions electronically. In August, the Georgia State Board of Pharmacy adopted new e-prescribing rules that officially went into effect on September 7th.

In response to the adoption of the new rules, the Center for Health Transformation (CHT) and the Georgia Pharmacy Association (GPhA) have joined with many of the state's local community pharmacies to announce the launch of a statewide e-prescribing campaign, which aims to encourage adoption amongst physicians and pharmacies.

The announcement follows the recent release of an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report that brought national focus to the issue of the 1.5 million preventable medication errors that occur in the United States each year. As part of a series of steps that should be taken to prevent these errors, the IOM report recommended that all prescribers and pharmacies be e-prescribing by 2010.

In anticipation of the new e-prescribing rule taking affect in Georgia, over 1,200 pharmacies in the state have already taken the simple steps required to receive new prescriptions from physicians directly into their pharmacy systems -- instead of by fax or handwritten prescription. The same applies to prescription refill requests, which can now be sent from pharmacies to physicians electronically -- no faxing or phone calls required. The list of currently activated pharmacies in Georgia includes CVS/pharmacy, Brooks Eckerd, Kroger, Publix, Rite Aid, Target, Walgreens, Wal-Mart and Winn Dixie along with a number of independent pharmacies.

"Utilizing e-prescribing is a huge benefit for our patients, our pharmacists and our physician partners," said Michael Podgurski, vice president pharmacy operations at Rite Aid, the first pharmacy in Georgia to receive an electronic prescription from a physician. "E-prescribing improves accuracy, eliminates unnecessary phone calls and faxes to physician's offices and, most importantly, allows our pharmacists to spend more time counseling their patients, answering their questions, and ensuring their compliance with medication therapy."

E-Prescribing Campaign to Help Georgia Physicians Connect with Local Pharmacists

The CHT, GPhA and many of the state's local community pharmacies will launch the Georgia e-prescribing or "Get Connected" campaign using a statewide technology assessment. The assessment is designed to help physicians determine if their practice already possesses the technology to establish a direct, two-way, computer-to-computer connection with their local pharmacies -- and how to then "turn on" that connection. Practices will be sent the one-page assessment by fax or have the option to complete it online.

SureScripts, the nation's largest electronic prescribing network and a supporter of Georgia's Get Connected campaign, estimates that approximately 150,000 physicians in the United States could be using their existing electronic medical record (EMR), lab order or e-prescribing technology to send and receive prescriptions directly to and from their local pharmacists' computers. The problem: Most are not aware of this. The result: Most use a computer or handheld device to -- believe it, or not -- send fax-based prescriptions to their local pharmacists' fax machines.

"E-prescribing is an important part of the future of healthcare," said Wayne Oliver, project director for the Center for Health Transformation. "Electronic prescriptions and electronic medical records save lives and are vital to the transformation of our current paper-based system. We are excited that this innovative technology is finally available in Georgia. We hope physicians and pharmacists will quickly move to embrace e-prescribing in the state."

In addition to improving patient safety and the efficiency of new prescription routing, a direct electronic connection with pharmacies also allows prescription refill requests to be sent directly to a physician's computer. Physicians and their staff may review and respond online with just a few clicks. This significantly reduces the time spent managing what has traditionally been a phone and fax burdened process and leaves more time for patient care.

"The right medicine in the right dose is the least expensive prescription for good health," said James R. Bracewell, executive vice president and CEO of the Georgia Pharmacy Association. "E-prescribing will be a major step forward in reducing the time burden for pharmacists, who, for the safety of the patient, have to call the patient's physician to get an interpretation of a hand written prescription."

How To Get Connected

For more information about the Georgia e-prescribing technology assessment and to complete it online, physicians and their staffs can go to www.GetRxConnected.com/GA. Physicians and staff can also call with questions about the assessment or electronic prescribing in general: 1-866-RxReady (1-866-797-3239).

Upon completing and submitting the technology assessment, practices will receive a personalized Practice Capability Report. Based on a respondent's individual answers to the assessment, the report will offer an estimate of the time and associated costs currently spent by the practice managing the refill process. The report will specify if a practice possesses the technology to establish an electronic connection with pharmacies in their area and outline steps on how to get connected.

The Get Connected campaign will also serve as a chance for more pharmacists to understand if the computer systems they use can be enabled for electronic prescribing. Pharmacy staff are encouraged to find out by visiting www.GetRxConnected.com/GA/pharmacist.

For patients, e-prescribing means a safer and more efficient prescribing process -- no more lost prescriptions, no trip to the pharmacy to drop off the prescription and no illegible handwriting for the pharmacist to interpret. Residents of Georgia who are interested in finding out more about how electronic prescribing benefits them and their families can go to www.GetRxConnected.com/GA/patients. The web site also features helpful advice on how residents can help their physician Get Connected to their local community pharmacy.

Improve Patient Safety and More: The Economics of E-Prescribing

There remains a sizable opportunity to grow e-prescribing adoption and utilization across the country. Realizing its full potential represents an unprecedented opportunity to improve not only the safety, but the efficiency of the prescribing process as well.

By eliminating paper from the prescribing process, e-prescribing has been proven to offer significant time-savings by eliminating the need for phone calls and faxes, allowing prescribers and their staff more time to care for their patients.

A separate study by the Medical Group Management Association's (MGMA) Group Practice Research Network (GPRN) estimated that administrative complexity related to prescriptions costs a practice approximately $15,700 a year for each full time physician on staff. Multiplying that figure by an estimated 14,200 office-based physicians currently practicing and prescribing medications in Georgia reveals an opportunity for Georgia to save more than $222 million annually from conversion to e-prescribing.

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