Push is on to get more independent pharmacies wired

August 21, 2006

With their foothold in chain pharmacies already firmly established, e-prescription evangelists are working tenaciously to convince independent pharmacies to leave paper-based Rxs behind.

With their foothold in chain pharmacies already firmly established, e-prescription evangelists are working tenaciously to convince independent pharmacies to leave paper-based Rxs behind.

First championed after the turn of the century, e-prescriptions quickly caught on with the chains after top brass there saw the inherent efficiency of receiving Rxs electronically on PCs rather than trying to decipher paper-based prescriptions that too often looked like chicken scratch.

Plus, the systems are inspiring doctors and pharmacists to find new ways to enhance patient treatment. A new program launched by Group Health Inc., based in New York, and DrFirst, based in Rockville, Md., an e-prescription solutions provider, for example, will enable GHI to monitor patients' adherence to medication treatment and alert doctors about patients who haven't filled prescriptions for chronic conditions.

"Studies estimate that chronic medication adherence is just 50%," said Maria C. Martins-Lopes, M.D., GHI's chief medical officer. She added that 6% to 44% of chronic medication prescriptions are never filled. "This program is designed to give our providers and members information to effectively manage the clinician-determined therapy."

Most chain pharmacies, as well as the significantly fewer independents active in e-prescribing, currently use SureScripts. It's a not-for-profit, secure telecommunications network, based in Alexandria, Va., which handles doctor-pharmacy e-prescription transmissions, and also helps set standards for the e-messaging between the two parties.

The remainder of pharmacies-mostly those that are mail-order in nature-use RxHub, another secure telecommunications network, based in St. Paul, Minn.

"More than 28,000 pharmacies are activated and e-prescribing on the SureScripts network-that represents more than 50% of the pharmacies in the United States," said Rob Cronin, a spokesman for SureScripts. Cronin confirms that most of those pharmacies are chain stores and that SureScripts is among the e-prescription evangelists that are trying to bring more independents into the fold.

For Mike DeAngelis, manager of corporate communications at CVS, adding e-scripts has been a hefty win. "Implementing e-prescriptions at CVS was well worth our time and investment, because participation by the prescriber community continues to increase," he said.

David P. Feeney, owner of the Warwick, R.I.-based independent Oxnard Pharmacy, and president of Provider Health Services, a Wakefield, R.I., network of 30 indepen-dent pharmacies, is also among the converted. Ramping up an e-prescription system, he said, is a lot easier than many independents may believe. "The software needed is often a modification of the pharmacy management software you're already running, and takes about 20 minutes to install," Feeney said. "In fact, a lot of pharmacy management software firms will provide e-prescription software free as an add-on to their monthly software maintenance plans."