SOURCE: Surescripts

February 27, 2007 14:30 ET

Massachusetts Tops in Key Indicator for Patient Safety: Ranked #1 State in the Nation for Electronic Prescribing

Massachusetts Takes Top Honors as Nation's Community Pharmacies Announce Second Annual Safe-Rx Awards

BOSTON, MA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- February 27, 2007 -- The community pharmacy industry today cited the commonwealth of Massachusetts and three physicians for their outstanding efforts to improve patient safety and practice efficiency through the use of electronic prescribing technology. Representatives from the nation's community pharmacies presented the Safe-Rx™ Award to Massachusetts for ranking first in the nation for electronic prescribing.

Electronic prescribing, or "e-prescribing", is widely acknowledged as a means of enhancing patient safety. The Safe-Rx Award is given annually by the nation's community pharmacies to the top 10 e-prescribing states in the nation and three prescribers within the winning states who have demonstrated outstanding leadership through their use of e-prescribing technology. Massachusetts' first place ranking this year represents a jump from its third place finish last year.

"The 'Safe-Rx' Award is well-deserved recognition for Massachusetts for its leadership in adopting cutting-edge technologies to reduce costs, avoid errors in prescribing drugs, and increase efficiency in delivering care," said Senator Edward M. Kennedy. "Information technology is transforming all aspects of our modern society, but few areas are more important than health care. The 'Safe-Rx' Award recognizes the immense benefits of this technology, especially in protecting patient safety."

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) and SureScripts®, created the Safe-Rx Award to raise awareness of e-prescribing as a more secure, accurate and informed means of prescribing patients medication. This year's Safe-Rx Awards follow the release of a report in July of 2006 by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) that focused national attention on the 1.5 million preventable medication errors that occur in the United States each year. To prevent these errors and the injuries they cause, the IOM report made a series of recommendations, including one that all prescribers and pharmacies prescribe electronically by 2010.

"An essential feature of our new landmark Massachusetts health care reform law is an investment in health IT to keep expanded access to care affordable and of the highest quality. No state can enact truly meaningful health reform without a major commitment to health IT," said Senator Richard T. Moore, Senate Chair of the Massachusetts Legislature's Joint Committee on Health Care Financing and one of the principal architects of the Massachusetts health care reform legislation.

Senator Moore joined with leaders from the nation's community pharmacies to recognize three Massachusetts physicians for their outstanding efforts to improve patient safety and practice efficiency through the use of electronic prescribing technology. Drs. Joseph Antaki (Uxbridge), Lorenver Po (Holyoke) and Alberto Sobrado (North Andover) were also honored with the Safe-Rx™ Award.

"E-Prescribing has revolutionized the way we provide medications to our patients," said Dr. Lorenver Po. "It has become an intricate and delicate part of our practice."

"The technology is easy to implement and easy to use," said Dr. Alberto Sobrado. "Patients love it."

The Safe-Rx Awards are based on an analysis of data from new prescriptions and refill responses electronically transmitted over the Pharmacy Health Information Exchange™, operated by SureScripts. States are ranked by the number of prescriptions routed electronically in 2006 as a percentage of the total number of prescriptions eligible for electronic routing.

Top 10 E-Prescribing States: The Second Annual* Safe-Rx Award Winners
1.   Massachusetts
2.   Rhode Island
3.   Nevada
4.   Delaware
5.   Maryland
6.   Michigan
7.   North Carolina
8.   New Jersey**
9.   Ohio
10.  Washington**
*For more information about the awards, and to see how this year's state
rankings compare to the year before, go to www.SureScripts.com/SafeRx.
**New to Top 10
"CVS/pharmacy congratulates Massachusetts on its leadership in e-prescribing, which is in keeping with Massachusetts' reputation for world-class medical care," said Tom Ryan, CEO of CVS. "CVS has enabled our more than 6,000 pharmacies across the nation for e-prescribing, including the more than 300 locations across the state of Massachusetts. We are proud to play a part in making it possible and convenient for physicians and other health care professionals and their patients to take advantage of e-prescribing."

One of the keys to Massachusetts' success is that, over the last three years, Massachusetts pharmacies have made significant upgrades to their computer systems to allow physician practices to exchange prescription information with them electronically. With more and more physician practices getting connected, e-prescribing has proven to be a more efficient and safe alternative to the traditionally paper-, phone- and fax- based prescribing process.

Other critical factors contributing to Massachusetts' Top 10 finish include the following efforts:

--  eRx Collaborative - The eRx Collaborative was formed by Blue Cross
    Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA), Tufts Health Plan and Neighborhood
    Health Plan (NHP) with technology partners DrFirst and ZixCorp to
    collaboratively promote and enable the use of electronic prescribing in
    Massachusetts to improve patient safety, healthcare affordability, quality
    and delivery.  Since 2003, the eRx Collaborative has sponsored e-
    prescribing technology in Massachusetts and, to date, prescribers in the
    eRx Collaborative have sent 7.8 million electronic prescriptions with
    nearly 90,000 prescriptions changed as a result of drug-to-drug alerts. To
    promote the importance of working together to expand the adoption of e-
    prescribing in Massachusetts, the eRx Collaborative founded the MA eRx
    Steering Committee, which includes insurers, pharmacies, technology vendors
    and state agencies.
--  MA-SHARE development of Rx Gateway - to provide a single
    infrastructure for connectivity with pharmacy and PBMs for physicians with
    Partners Healthcare and CareGroup Healthcare System.
--  Massachusetts Health Data Consortium - Aims to be a trusted, neutral
    holder and disseminator of health data; and promote the growth of health
    information exchange by addressing technical, financial, policy and
    operational barriers.  MHDC has worked on projects to promote e-
    prescribing, such as Meds-Info which was designed to deliver real-time
    patient prescription medication history from multiple data sources to
    emergency department physicians.  In addition, MHDC hosts the Massachusetts
    eRx Steering Committee discussions, as well as a forum for electronic
    health record implementation efforts.
--  eHealth Collaborative - aims to improve the quality, safety,
    efficiency and affordability of healthcare in Massachusetts through
    universal adoption of electronic health records and health information
    exchange.  MAeHC has a $50 million financial commitment from Blue Cross
    Blue Shield of Massachusetts to implement three pilot projects in
    Massachusetts to demonstrate the costs and benefits of widespread use of
    health IT in ambulatory settings.  The project is outfitting approximately
    450 physicians with electronic health records (with embedded e-prescribing)
    and launching health information exchanges in each of the three pilot
    communities.
    
"Every time a physician switches from the prescription pad to e-prescribing technology, he or she is eliminating potential medication errors due to handwriting legibility," said Steve Fox, senior director provider relations, communications & ehealth innovation, eRx Collaborative. "E-prescribing also acts as a decision-support tool by automatically alerting prescribers to possible interactions and allergies. The eRx Collaborative is committed to bringing this important patient safety tool to physicians' offices across the Commonwealth."

"The Massachusetts RHIO has declared 2007 to be the year of e-prescribing," said Dr. John Halamka, MA-SHARE. "We believe the substantial increase in quality combined with workflow enhancement and cost reduction makes e-prescribing the highest priority project for all our stakeholders -- payers, providers, pharmacies and patients."

"The Massachusetts Health Data Consortium is gratified that our state has received this award," said CEO Ray A. Campbell III. "It is a tribute to the collaborative process that we have developed so that providers, health plans, government agencies and other stakeholders can work together to enhance health information technology and improve quality of care."

"We are delighted that Massachusetts has been recognized for this award," said Micky Tripathi, president and CEO, eHealth Collaborative. "This is a demonstration of the incredible progress that can be attained when multiple stakeholders and organizations work collaboratively toward a common goal. All of the citizens of Massachusetts will benefit from the great strides that have been made in e-prescribing in the Commonwealth."

E-Prescribing's Growth Opportunity: Save Time, Dollars and Much More

There remains a sizable opportunity to increase e-prescribing adoption and utilization across the country -- including in all Top 10 Safe-Rx states. Realizing its full potential represents an unprecedented opportunity to improve patient safety and the efficiency of the prescribing process.

According to the Center for Information Technology Leadership (CITL), electronic prescribing systems with a network connection to pharmacy and advanced decision support capabilities could help prevent 130,000 life threatening medication errors annually.

By eliminating paper from the prescribing process, e-prescribing also 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 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 -- a figure that does not even take into consideration the time spent managing faxes. Multiplying that figure by an estimated 17,400 office-based physicians currently practicing and prescribing medications in Massachusetts reveals an opportunity for e-prescribing to significantly reduce the estimated $273 million worth of time spent annually by physicians and staff on phone calls clarifying prescription information.

For Prescribers

For more information about how to start prescribing electronically, prescribers can go to www.GetRxConnected.com/MA. The site includes an online tool designed to help prescribers, and their staffs, determine if their practice already possesses the technology to establish a direct, two-way, computer-to-computer connection with their local pharmacies. Prescribers can also call with questions about the assessment or electronic prescribing in general: 1-866-RxReady (1-866-797-3239).

For Patients

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 Massachusetts who are interested in finding out more about how electronic prescribing benefits them and their families can go to www.GetRxConnected.com/MA/patients. The web site also features helpful advice on how residents can help their physician Get Connected to their local community pharmacy.

About NACDS

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) represents the nation's leading retail chain pharmacies and suppliers, helping them better meet the changing needs of their patients and customers. Chain pharmacies operate more than 38,000 pharmacies, employ 112,000 pharmacists, fill more than 2.3 billion prescriptions yearly, and have annual sales of nearly $700 billion. Other members include more than 1,000 suppliers of products and services to the chain drug industry. NACDS international membership has grown to include 80 members from 25 countries. For more information about NACDS, visit www.nacds.org.

About NCPA

The National Community Pharmacists Association, founded in 1898, represents the nation's community pharmacists, including the owners of more than 24,000 pharmacies. The nation's independent pharmacies, independent pharmacy franchises, and independent chains dispense nearly half of the nation's retail prescription medicines.

About SureScripts

Founded by the pharmacy industry in 2001, SureScripts operates the Pharmacy Health Information Exchange™ which facilitates the secure electronic transmission of prescription information between physicians and pharmacists and provides access to life-saving information about patients during emergencies or routine care. Today, more than 95 percent of all pharmacies and all major physician technology vendors in the United States are certified on the Pharmacy Health Information Exchange. More information about SureScripts is available at www.surescripts.com.

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