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News
Issue #2003 - 04 (February 2003)
(Updated Feb. 5, 2003)

APPLICATION SOLUTIONS & APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT

Hand-held Computers Helping Physicians Communicate Better With Pharmacies

In his neatest handwriting, Dr. Andrew Baumel demonstrates how prescriptions get from a small hand-held computer to the neighborhood pharmacy with ease. 

With a few taps of the stylus on the small screen, physicians can select a patient, choose a medication, find out what drugs are covered under the patient's insurance, enter dosages and fax an electronically signed prescription to the pharmacy -- all within a few minutes.

While many people use pocket PCs and other hand-held computers as personal electronic organizers, the devices are the newest innovation to be tested in the medical field.

"It saves paperwork," said Baumel, a Framingham pediatrician. "I don't have to pull prescription (information) and fill it out. The pharmacies can read my prescription."

Besides saving physicians' time on filling out prescriptions, pharmacists say it saves them time calling physicians' offices to double-check the order.

Cindy Vahey, a pharmacist at CVS in Natick, said the system is efficient. "You don't have to deal with a busy phone," she said. "It just comes right through the fax."

Baumel and five other physicians at Framingham Pediatrics are testing the pocket PCs in a new pilot program sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield and Express Script Inc., the company which manages the health plan's pharmacy benefits.

Express Script Inc. is funding the pilot program and PocketScript is supplying 100 physicians, specialists and nurses with the hardware and a software program containing a library of drugs.

The yearlong pilot program for the PocketScript Prescription System was launched in December and will look at physicians' prescribing habits, how long it takes them to write a prescription and whether physicians find electronic prescribing easier.

Karen Wells-Jackson, a senior contract analyst for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, said the study is designed to determine if the technology reduces phone calls to and from the pharmacy, if it reduces prescription errors due to handwriting and if it saves time.

"The first goal was the usefulness of the wireless technology," she said. "We're also looking to see if it improves efficiency."

The physicians at Framingham Pediatrics received the tiny, silver wireless Toshiba PDAs that go for about $599 in retail stores. Baumel said it took him three days to figure out how to use the computer.

Patient and drug information on each PDA can be accessed through a centralized computerized system at the doctor's office. In order for the PDA to retrieve information about a patient the user must be within 30 feet of the office server.

Baumel said it took him about three days to learn how to use the device and has found it to be a tremendous convenience. 

He said since the tiny computers don't store any information they're safe from hackers because all patient information is on the server. Also, physicians must enter their identification and a password every time they turn the device on or off.

The pocket PC will also shut off after about 10 to 20 minutes if it's not used. If the device is lost or misplaced it can't be used without a password.

While the program will alert physicians to drug interactions and approved vs. non-approved drugs, Baumel said he can override the system and write a prescription for a brand-name drug even if a generic is recommended.

He said it also helps with patient education to discuss which drugs work best and the cost. For instance, if a generic drug is recommended over a costlier one, Baumel said he may still prescribe the more expensive one if it works better for the patient.

"Insurers want doctors, at the point of prescribing, to think about this," said Baumel. "The insurance company likes that they can give me this information."

Blue Cross Blue Shield and other health plans are looking for ways to lower prescription drug costs. Advising -- even if subtly -- doctors about which drugs are approved and most cost-effective is one way to get them thinking, said Wells-Jackson.

"I don't feel that they're controlling me," he said. "I feel like they're informing me. Are they influencing me? Yes, they're trying to. I think it's in a good way. I want to know what they'll pay for and what they won't. The patient needs to know that."

Baumel said the one drawback to sending a fax directly to the pharmacy via the hand-held computers is when a pharmacy's fax machine is jammed, not working or out of paper. Also, any new patients not on the server have to be entered into the system, he said.

The main office computer keeps track of each physician and how many prescriptions they've written and faxed the pharmacy each day. A prescription can be printed or faxed directly and patients can get a copy.

Baumel said he has even put a list of all the instructions he usually writes with each prescription in the hand-held. That way, when he selects a medication he doesn't have to waste time writing the directions.

The biggest plus is for the patients who don't have to wait at the pharmacy for their prescription which can be sent from the exam room before they even leave the physician's office.

"It's a lot quicker for them," he said.

Source: Milford Daily News - By Michelle Hillman 
For more information: http://www.pocketscript.com

MobileInfo Comments and Advisory: Replacing the traditional paper-prescription with handheld devices that can check drug-interaction, insurance coverage and avoid wrong prescription filling is an advancement whose day has come in the medical profession. We need young doctors to use it actively so that their older role models also may change gradually. MHOs and pharmacy leaders should encourage this trend. It may not happen overnight but it will definitely happen gradually over a generation.

Note: This news release may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and section 21E of Securities Exchange act of 1934 in USA. Similar provisions exist in other countries. There is no assurance that the stipulated plans of vendors will be implemented. MobileInfo does not warrant the authenticity of the information. Readers should take appropriate caution in developing plans utilizing these products, services and technology architectures.  All trademarks used in this summary are the property of their respective owners.


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