WellPoint Health Networks To Offer Some Physicians Free Technology To Help Reduce Medical Errors
Thousand Oaks-based health plan WellPoint Health Networks said that it will spend an estimated $30 million to give about 20% of physicians participating in its network either a handheld device to designate patient prescriptions or a computer system to automate claims requests, the Wall Street Journal reports. According to the Journal, the offer amounts to a $1,600 free package for an estimated 19,000 doctors in California, Georgia, Missouri and Wisconsin. The free packages will be offered only to physicians who treat the largest number of WellPoint members, but all of the company's 176,000 network doctors will be able to purchase the technology at discounted rates. According to a WellPoint spokesperson, the free packages would have sold for between $2,100 and $2,400 each before the company negotiated discounts with Microsoft for the software. The program's rollout will be managed by Cap Gemini Ernst & Young. In explaining its motivation for the program, WellPoint cited findings from the National Academies' Institute of Medicine that more than 7,000 deaths and at least 7% of hospital admissions are the result of medication errors and negative drug effects. According to IOM, 95% of these errors could have been avoided if computerized prescription ordering-systems for doctors were used. Leonard Schaeffer, the CEO of WellPoint, said that the health plan aims to "help our network physicians more fully participate in the electronic medical community" (Rundle, Wall Street Journal, 1/15). Dr. Jeff Kamil, vice president and corporate medical officer for Blue Cross of California, a subsidiary of WellPoint, said, "We're doing it to improve health care, plain and simple." Dr. Kenneth Kizer, president of the not-for-profit group National Quality Forum, said that health care is "decades behind the technology curve," the Contra Costa Times reports. He added, "What's being done here, I would view as a positive step" (Silber, Contra Costa Times, 1/15).
With "high volumes" of prescriptions being written for medications with "sound-alike" names, "it has never been more important" for consumers to be "vigilant" about the drugs prescribed by physicians and dispensed by pharmacists, Wall Street Journal reporter Laura Landro writes in her "The Informed Patient" column. Medication errors include receiving the wrong strength, wrong dosage and sometimes even the wrong drug due to name mix-ups. The FDA is developing policies to address medication labeling and packaging to prevent mistakes, Landro writes (Landro, Wall Street Journal, 1/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.