Pharmacies ready for e-prescribing

By Bernie Monegain
12:00 AM

Kevin Hutchinson, Surescripts president and chief executive officer, likens the work of readying pharmacies for e-prescribing today to the efforts of introducing cable TV years ago.

The first thing cable companies had to do was install cable, he said. After that was done, neighborhoods and whole communities could plug in.

Today, the network that will enable pharmacies to receive electronic prescriptions is ready, with pharmacies in 30 states already plugged into the network.

On Aug. 25, SureScripts announced it had signed agreements, tested and certified the software of pharmacies and pharmacy technology vendors representing more than 75 percent of U.S. pharmacies. Today, that figure is more than 80 percent, Hutchinson said.

Next comes the training of pharmacy staff. The training is simple, Hutchinson said, and in most cases takes just a couple of hours. It's just a matter of showing the staff how new prescriptions will come in, he said.

Now that most pharmacies are ready to accept e-prescribing, the industry must turn its attention to physicians, Hutchinson suggests, and there are several programs under way to do just that.

Because about 30 percent of the nation's doctors are responsible for 80 percent of the prescriptions, Hutchinson recommends targeting those practices first.

Also, it's important to reach out to all the companies that sell electronic medical record and e-prescribing systems, he said, to make sure their software complies with industry standards for functionality and security.

SureScripts has signed contracts with software companies that supply electronic health record and electronic prescribing applications to physician offices representing more than 50,000 current physician users.

"Pharmacies have taken the critical first step in making electronic prescribing a reality through their active implementation of SureScripts Messenger Services," Hutchinson said.

"In 2004, our year of deployment, with support from industry leaders, we have successfully established a strong infrastructure by partnering with major health software companies to deploy a neutral and open network to physician offices and throughout retail pharmacies. As we move toward 2005, our year of utilization, we are preparing for increasing numbers of physicians and pharmacies to conduct transactions."

SureScripts was founded by the National Community Pharmacists Association and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. Those organizations represent the interests of 55,000 chain and independent pharmacies.

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