SOURCE: Surescripts

February 27, 2007 14:30 ET

North Carolina Ranks High in Key Indicator for Patient Safety: Ranked #7 State in the Nation for Electronic Prescribing

North Carolina Honored as Nation's Community Pharmacies Announce Second Annual Safe-Rx Awards

RALEIGH, NC -- (MARKET WIRE) -- February 27, 2007 -- The community pharmacy industry today cited the state of North Carolina and three physicians who practice in the state for outstanding efforts to improve patient safety and practice efficiency through the use of electronic prescribing technology. Drs. William Larsen (Charlotte), Nelson Pollock (High Point) and Rafaela Aguiar (High Point) were commended by leaders from community pharmacy with the Safe-Rx™ Award. North Carolina finished seventh in the nation as part of the second nationwide review and ranking of electronic prescribing activity. North Carolina's seventh place ranking this year represents a jump from its eighth place finish last year.

"I am very pleased that North Carolina has been recognized for the second straight year as a national leader in electronic prescribing," said Governor Michael F. Easley. "We must harness technology to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare delivery. Electronic prescribing is one of the best examples of accomplishing those twin goals. It speeds delivery of accurate information from doctors to pharmacists and significantly cuts down on medical errors. Congratulations to all those whose hard work has earned North Carolina the Safe-Rx Award."

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.

"The patients love the convenience of e-prescribing," said Dr. Pollock. "They are impressed with the technology."

"E-prescribing is efficient, fast and (provides) time-savings for me and my staff," said Dr. Larsen.

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
One of the keys to North Carolina's success is that, over the last three years, North Carolina 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 North Carolina's Top 10 finish include the following efforts:

--  North Carolina Healthcare Information and Communications Alliance,
    Inc. (NCHICA) -- NCHICA is dedicated to improving healthcare by
    accelerating the adoption of information technology.  In 2003 NCHICA's
    Board recognized that medications management is an important factor in
    improving healthcare and brought together key stakeholders in 2005 and 2006
    to accelerate an e-prescribing initiative for North Carolina.  NCHICA's
    short-term goal is to educate physicians and pharmacists to improve
    adoption; conduct surveys of physicians, pharmacies and consumers; and
    develop a model of sustainability.
--  BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina -- Introduced its
    ePrescribe(SM) program to more than 1000 North Carolina physicians who
    routinely write a large volume of prescriptions. These doctors were issued
    electronic prescribing software licenses, handheld personal digital
    assistants (PDAs) and wireless network hardware, free of charge. More than
    375,000 electronic prescriptions were written in 2006 using the technology.
--  Moses Cone Health System -- has incorporated electronic prescribing
    technology in its physician practice (LeBauer HealthCare) and will soon do
    the same in its clinics and Family Practice Center.
--  North Carolina Medical Society -- Responding to the IOM report on
    preventable errors, the NCMS undertook collaborative efforts to address
    patient safety.  This included NCMS participation on the NC Healthcare
    Information and Communication Alliance (NCHICA) Task Force on E-
    Prescribing, which includes hospitals, physician practices, pharmacists,
    relevant licensing boards, health plans, employers and vendors, to develop
    education programs on e-prescribing for physicians and other health care
    professionals.
    
"NCHICA and its members are committed to advancing e-prescribing in North Carolina through collaborative initiatives, and we are very appreciative that the state has received this award in recognition of our collective efforts," said Holt Anderson, executive director of NCHICA. "The use of e-prescribing has been proven to help reduce errors and improve the efficiency of healthcare delivery, and is a key part of the overall medications management strategy in our state."

"We believe ePrescribe(SM) will improve prescription accuracy and lower prescription drug costs," said Ron Smith, vice president of pharmacy at BCBSNC. "That's why we are investing in its success among the medical practices most likely to benefit from it."

"The efficiency it brings, the accuracy, the timeliness for physicians, pharmacists and patients alike, has been everything we had hoped it would be," said Cameron Cox, chief operating officer, LeBauer HealthCare.

"E-Prescribing is an important tool that is becoming increasingly available to physicians and helps improve safety and quality of care for patients," said Edward B. Ermini, MD, chair of the NC Medical Society's Quality of Care and Performance Improvement Committee. "We are encouraging doctors to use these programs as they become available."

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 15,700 office-based physicians currently practicing and prescribing medications in North Carolina reveals an opportunity for e-prescribing to significantly reduce the estimated $246 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/NC. 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 North Carolina who are interested in finding out more about how electronic prescribing benefits them and their families can go to www.GetRxConnected.com/NC/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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