ALEXANDRIA, Va. and ST. PAUL, Minn. In a breakthrough business deal that could propel the nationwide adoption of electronic prescribing, the nation’s retail pharmacies and leading pharmacy benefit managers today announced a plan to unite the country’s two leading health information networks.
The deal will bring together SureScripts, the e-prescribing platform provider owned by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association; and RxHub, which was created by the PBM industry and is jointly owned by CVS Caremark, Express Scripts and Medco Health Solutions. Both organizations were formed in 2001 to foster the adoption of e-prescribing by retail pharmacies, pharmacy networks, physicians and technology vendors.
Leaders of both groups are calling the merger “the single most significant advance to the accuracy, efficiency and quality of information associated with the 4 billion prescriptions written annually in the United States.” Under terms of the deal, the organizations will consolidate their operations, forming a single, secure, nationwide network for e-prescriptions and the exchange of health information.
The merger, said leaders of both companies, will streamline the adoption of e-prescribing for physicians and technology vendors, giving them a single network and a common link to the nation’s dispensing pharmacies. It will also be complementary, they said, combining the best capabilities of both firms: RxHub’s “expertise in patient identification and delivering drug benefit information to the physician at the point of care;” and “SureScripts’ focus on electronic prescription routing from the physician’s office to the pharmacy.
“The merger combines these strengths with a shared focus on more access to patient medication history to form a single suite of comprehensive services,” noted SureScripts and RxHub in a joint statement. “The new organization will enable physicians to securely access vital health information when caring for their patients through a fast and efficient health information exchange. This will allow them to transmit electronic prescriptions and renewal requests to both retail and mail-order pharmacies.”
Initially, the new organization will be jointly managed by the acting chief executive officer of RxHub, J.P. Little, and the acting chief executive officer of SureScripts, Rick Ratliff. The new board has begun a process to select a chief executive officer and has retained Spencer Stuart to conduct a nationwide search.
In 2008, the combined organization expects to transmit 100 million electronic prescription transactions and respond to more than 70 million requests by physicians confirming information about their patients’ drug coverage and medication histories. Assuming patients give consent, the merged companies will extend this information to clinicians caring for more than 200 million patients across the United States, SureScripts and RxHub predicted.
In an interview with Drug Store News yesterday, Little and Ratliff expressed enthusiasm about the merger and its potential to rapidly accelerate the rollout of paperless prescribing. “We’ve been working on this a long time, bringing together the PBM and retail pharmacy industries. This is a merger of equals,” said Little, “and it’s in the best interests of accelerating the adoption of electronic prescribing and improving health care information technology.”
Added Ratliff, “It’s a giant step toward our objective of getting to a paperless prescribing system nationwide.
“The key for us is to make this as efficient and streamlined as possible” for physicians, technology vendors, PBMs and pharmacies themselves, he added.
Under terms of the merger, both companies will assume 50 percent ownership in the new venture, which will be run as a limited liability corporation. Serving as co-chairmen of the six-member board of directors will be Bruce Roberts, executive vice president and chief executive officer of NCPA; and John Driscoll, president of new markets for Medco. The combined company, which for the time being will be called SureScripts-RxHub, will maintain offices in Alexandria and St. Paul.
“The combined strengths of the two organizations will enable the delivery of a single suite of services that will dramatically improve the safety, efficiency and quality of one of the largest segments in healthcare,” said Roberts. “We remain committed to maintaining the guiding principles that have driven the success of SureScripts and RxHub to date. We will continue to protect patient choice of pharmacy and physician choice of therapy.”