PALM PILOTS FOR DOCS: E-Pads May Reduce Drug Errors
New handheld electronic prescription pads could reduce medication errors and costly lawsuits and make prescription writing easier for doctors, the Associated Press reports. The portable devices check for adverse drug interactions and allergies when physicians enter prescriptions and indicate whether chosen drugs are covered by patients' insurance plans. Prescriptions are then e-mailed to a pharmacy, eliminating the possibility of handwriting errors or lost prescription slips. Proponents say the new machines could help eliminate many of the drug errors that lead to two million hospitalizations annually. Manufacturers hope the new wireless devices, which offer greater convenience and flexibility than the computer terminals for prescription writing that some hospitals provide, will help make "e-prescribing" the norm. One company, Allscripts, already has 1,500 physicians using its TouchScript Personal Prescriber, despite the $250 monthly fee for the service, and about a dozen competitors plan to launch their own versions (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 11/11).
An Internet-based service called HealthxNet allows New Mexico providers and health plans to verify patients' insurance coverage and check the status of claims online. Albuquerque-based University Hospital and St. Joseph Healthcare and several other hospitals have joined Cimarron Health Plan and BlueCross BlueShield of New Mexico to participate in the service (O'Dowd, Albuquerque Journal, 11/11).
Going, Going, Gone
Three large employers held an online auction this summer in which more than 50 health plans bid for the companies' business. The employers, which included IBM Corp., saved a total of $1.1 million on their health care costs, and the insurers benefited from a shorter negotiation period and the chance to compare their rates to competitors'. Hewitt Associates, the consulting firm that organized the auction, plans to launch a larger auction next year (Gonzalez, Denver Rocky Mountain News, 11/15).