New Coalition Giving U.S. Doctors Free E-Prescribing Software Services

By providing U.S. doctors access to free, secure, and simple-to-use e-prescribing applications via the Web, the goal of the new National ePrescribing Patient Safety Initiative (NEPSI) is to have all physicians trading in their paper-based prescription pads in favor of electronically writing and sending prescriptions to pharmacies as soon as possible.

It's estimated that 3.2 billion prescriptions are written each year by U.S. doctors, and currently less than 20% of American doctors use e-prescribing, says Dr. Nancy Dickey, currently president of the Health Science Center and vice chancellor for Health Affairs at the Texas A&M University System and formerly president of the American Medical Association.

By removing barriers -- most notably cost and complexity -- that doctors often cite as reasons for not using e-prescribing systems, there's no longer technology or financial "excuses" for doctors not using e-prescribing for patients, says Newt Gingrich, founder of Center for Healthcare Transformation and a participant at a press conference in Washington, D.C. today announcing the e-prescribing initiative.

"Paper kills," says the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. "It's a clear fact that paper is dangerous," said Gingrich, referring to the tens of thousands paper-based patient medical records destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2004, as well as the estimated 7,000 to 9,000 American patients who die -- and the 1.5 million patients who are injured -- each year by preventable medication errors, according to a July 2006 report by the Institute of Medicine.

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The NEPSI e-prescribing software services will be deployed nationally beginning on January 31 and are based on an ASP model of Allscripts' eRX Now software, which is currently used by about 20,000 U.S doctors to write prescriptions, says Allscripts chairman and CEO Glen Tullman.

While NEPSI's e-prescribing services and software are available free to doctors, companies involved in providing technology and services will invest an estimated $100 million over the next five years to support the effort, says Tullman.

Other technology and healthcare participants of the coalition include "national sponsor" Dell Computer, which is providing ASP support. Also supporting the effort, are Google, which is providing to NEPSI a special search engine for medical professionals; and Sprint Nextel, which is providing free e-prescription-enabled cell phones to a limited number of doctors who are first to register for the NEPSI services.

Other coalition members include Microsoft, Fujitsu Computers of America, and Wolters Kluwer Health, which is providing databases allowing doctors to check in real-time for possible drug interactions and adverse effects when electronically prescribing drugs using the NEPSI system.

Also participating in the coalition is SureScripts, which currently provides e-prescription connectivity services to about 55,000 pharmacies in the U.S.

Health benefits payers, including Aetna, Horizons Blue Cross Blue Shield and Wellpoint, also participants in the coalition, will offer a variety of incentives to encourage doctors in their networks to use e-prescribing in their practices.

NEPSI aims to "build and supplement" existing programs -- including private and public efforts -- also aimed at getting doctors to use e-prescribing, says Allscripts Tullman. For instance, last October, the state of New Hampshire also unveiled a plan to have 100% of doctors in its state using e-prescribing by 2008.

Doctors can register to use the free NEPSI e-prescribing services at