Our industry received one more reminder of the leadership retail pharmacy has shown on health reform last week.
On March 17, officials in Tampa, Fla., announced a new initiative aimed at converting every physician in the Tampa Bay area to electronic prescribing, including more than 10,000 doctors in 10 different counties. Under the program, “PaperFree Tampa Bay,” which is being funded by dollars set aside under President Obama’s economic stimulus plan, including some $20 billion to promote the widespread adoption of HIT the University of South Florida will hire more than 100 “healthcare ambassadors” to work with local physicians to speed the shift to e-prescribing.
According to Allscripts, the leading provider of e-prescribing software to physicians, roughly one-third of the country’s doctors are Allscripts customers. State officials in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Iowa are looking at implementing similar programs that will seek to take advantage of federal stimulus dollars to jumpstart e-prescribing.
“This will be a proof of concept that can become a model for the entire nation,” said Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman.
Of course, prior to all of this, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, as part of the most recent revision of the Medicare Act, already had been empowered to create special financial incentives to speed along physician adoption of e-prescribing. Basically, doctors that implement e-prescribing before 2012 will receive higher reimbursements from CMS; doctors that do not make the move by then will be penalized in the form of lower reimbursement.
What does that mean?
If projections are correct, the shift to e-prescribing will improve patient compliance, as a greater number of prescriptions will actually make it to the pharmacy. According to research conducted by Walgreens and Allscripts’ retail-pharmacy counterpart, SureScripts, the shift to paperless prescriptions increased the number of scripts that reached the pharmacy by 11%. For America that means a chance to take a huge bite out of the $177 billion we spend every year in this country in direct and indirect costs related to patients not taking their medications as they have been directed to ? or at all.
For retail pharmacy ? which has clearly led the way on HIT, with some 95% of all community pharmacies e-prescribing-enabled ? it likely will mean a surge of new customer traffic and incremental sales.