Electronic prescribing takes Giant step forward


Giant Food and NACDS launched an electronic prescribing system for use in the supermarket chain's 155 pharmacies.



Electronic prescribing takes Giant step forward

The goal of electronic prescribing got a little closer last month when Giant Food unveiled a system that will connect its 154 pharmacies to local physicians.

Using a desktop PC, handheld device, or cell phone, participating physicians will be able to transmit new prescriptions and refill authorizations directly to computers in Giant Food pharmacies. The OnCallData program will be available to 30,000 physicians in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. The physicians will connect to the pharmacies through their NDCHealth Corp. office management software.

Doctors will pay a monthly subscription fee of $29 to $39 for the service. Pharmacies will be charged an undisclosed transaction fee.

The OnCallData system was developed by physicians at InstantDx, a software company in Gaithersburg, Md. In addition to writing Rxs and authorizing refills, physicians can access patient profiles and see lab results instantly. It links the physician's patient database and the pharmacy software, so they both have access to the information, which never leaves the physician-pharmacist loop.

The InstantDx e-connectivity system creates a bridge between physicians and pharmacists so they can jointly encourage patients to refill Rxs on time and take their medications correctly, said InstantDx co-chair Allan Weinstein, M.D. "This high-tech collaboration will reduce hospital visits and provide better patient care," he added.

On the pharmacy side, the system connects to TechRx pharmacy point-of-service software, which automates the Rx filling process from receipt of the script through dispensing, including insurance verification. Based in Pittsburgh, TechRx lets pharmacies aggregate and process critical information, including drug interactions, patient alerts, and prices.

OnCallData was launched by Giant last month at a press conference in one of the six pharmacies that are already on-line. The Landover, Md., supermarket chain plans to roll the program into all of its 154 pharmacies by the end of this month.

After checking out other systems, Giant chose OnCallData for its versatility and reliability, said Russell Fair, R.Ph., v.p. of pharmacy operations. He noted that more than 30% of a pharmacist's time is spent on the phone taking or clarifying scripts and that by 2005, it's predicted that pharmacists will be filling four billion prescriptions. "OnCallData's hassle-free service will allow our pharmacists to spend more time counseling patients instead of spending time on the phone answering questions and processing prescriptions," he added.

The Giant e-connectivity initiative got a thumbs-up from Tommy Thompson, secretary of Health & Human Services. Speaking at the launch ceremony, Thompson said, "A paperless medical system is an effective way to reduce deaths from medical mistakes, cut stress in overworked pharmacists, and save money in healthcare costs. It is my hope that more of America's doctors and pharmacists will click on this e-script highway."

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores officials were on hand to get an up-close look at the InstantDx technology, said spokeswoman Crystal Wright. Last August, NACDS and the National Community Pharmacists Association created SureScript to electronically connect physicians and pharmacists without an intermediary. The firm's current focus is on making refill authorizations more efficient.

"We are excited that Giant is one of the first retail pharmacies to take full advantage of the value of electronic prescriptions and renewals," said NACDS president/CEO Craig Fuller. "E-scripts lift some of the burdens from pharmacists' and physicians' shoulders, leaving more time for counseling patients. They will also reduce errors that are attributable to difficult-to-read scripts."

Carol Ukens


Carol Ukens. Electronic prescribing takes Giant step forward.

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