Efforts by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, physician practices help Michigan become a leading adopter of e-prescribing

Electronic prescriptions improve efficiency, reduce errors

August 6, 2009

DETROIT - Hundreds of physician practices in Michigan have teamed with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to help a movement that has made the state one of the national leaders of e-prescribing.

One of those doctors is Michael Schaub who, with Physician Assistant Jake Sauve, has wiped out the danger of doctors' scrawl on prescriptions they write in their family practice. They're among 1,200 Michigan prescribers — doctors and other medical professionals who prescribe medications — who have moved from handwriting to electronically producing medication orders in a BCBSM-supported initiative.

"Our handwriting is not always the greatest," said Schaub about himself and Sauve, partners who care for adults and children at Northern Lights Family Medicine in West Michigan's Montague. "But every prescription we write is 100 percent legible because of e-prescribing."

In the BCBSM e-prescribing program, doctors electronically send prescription information directly to pharmacists through a secure Web portal. Partnering doctors get access to BCBSM's full-featured stand-alone e-prescribing management system, free hardware, help with installation and Web access for two years.

"Through this partnership with physicians and their teams, we've helped boost e-prescribing to more than 4,800 — or about 30 percent — of all doctor's offices across Michigan," said James Lang, Blues vice president of Pharmacy Services. "The efforts underway by BCBSM and doctor's offices are among the industry's best and most progressive."

E-prescribing results in improved patient safety and system efficiencies. To help prevent potentially dangerous drug interactions, a primary care physician can use an e-prescribing system to see what medications have been prescribed for a patient by specialists. Doctors can view their own medication records for a patient. Upon entering prescribing orders, doctors can get alerts about potential harmful interactions, drug allergies and dosing issues. E-prescribing also may reduce time spent by pharmacy staff to make callbacks to doctors' offices, and it avoids paper waste.

More than 1 million prescriptions have been handled by the BCBSM program. Current volume is about 130,000 prescriptions per month. Nearly 50,000 member alerts have been triggered. About 30 percent of them resulted in the prescribing doctor taking action to resolve potential problems.

The collaborative program is one of several e-prescribing efforts supported by BCBSM. E-prescribing is also supported through BCBSM's Physician Group Incentive Program, a collaborative effort that includes 35 participating physician organizations across Michigan. They represent some 6,400 primary care physicians and specialists who care for about 1.6 million patients. The program provides incentives to physician groups for introducing efficiencies in the delivery of care. In some cases, the physician groups use their incentives dollars to start or maintain e-prescribing in their offices.

In Southeast Michigan, Blue Cross is a very active participant in a coalition saluted in June for boosting Michigan to third in the nation in e-prescribing. Michigan ranked third, behind only Massachusetts and Rhode Island, in the Safe-Rx Award from Surescripts, America's largest electronic network. The Safe-Rx Award recognizes Blue Cross and fellow partners in the Southeast Michigan E-prescribing Initiative as national leaders in e-prescribing.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit organization, provides and administers health benefits to 4.7 million members residing in Michigan in addition to members of Michigan-headquartered groups who reside outside the state. The company offers a broad variety of plans including: Traditional Blue Cross Blue Shield; Blue Preferred®, Community Blue℠ and Healthy Blue Incentives℠ PPOs; Blue Care Network HMO; BCN Healthy Blue Living℠; Flexible Blue℠ plans compatible with health savings accounts; Medicare Advantage; Part D Prescription Drug plans, and MyBlue℠ products in the under-age-65 individual market. BCBSM also offers dental, vision and hearing plans. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are nonprofit corporations and independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more company information, visit bcbsm.com.

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