Study: E-prescribing cuts labor costs by 50 percent

By Jack Beaudoin
12:00 AM

ZixCorp is about to unveil a new case study that claims to show how its PocketScript solution cut prescription-related labor costs in half at a Massachusetts physician practice.

According to a three-year analysis conducted at Newton (Mass.) Wellesley Internists, an eight-physician, seven-nurse practitioner group, adopting PocketScript reduced daily time spent on prescription refill requests and new prescriptions from 25 hours down to 12.5 hours. On an annualized basis, that amounts to more than 3,000 hours, the equivalent of one and a half FTEs.

Although the company has relied on testimonial and anecdotal reports of e-prescribing in the past, Steve Davis, director of recruitment for care delivery and PocketScripts, says the new study could help persuade physicians to take a closer look at the technology.

Davis said while the company hasn't publicized the case study yet, he's shown it around to other physicians and "the impact has been dramatic. It really is an eye-catcher."

What gives the study credibility is its duration – a full three years. "These people were early adopters,' Davis said of the clinic. "Now they're enthusiasts."

"We thought there would be some resistance or perhaps a steep learning curve," said practice administrator Kathleen M. Barnes, RN, in the case study. "A few of us were initially reluctant to change a system that worked, despite being labor-intensive. But after a few trial runs, all of us could see clear advantages to using e-prescribing."

Barnes said much of the time savings resulted from the fact that patient records didn't need to be pulled manually each time a prescription was requested. She said it now took only a minute to enter a new patient into the system and just 15 to 20 seconds to fill a prescription.

Davis said he believes that the tipping point for widespread adoption of e-prescribing is at hand. Vendors have addressed privacy and security concerns and improved technology. Bidirectional communications between physicians and pharmacies has blossomed. And physicians have been reluctant to pay for e-prescribing tools because they weren't sure they'd see a return on the investment

"The barriers have been difficult to overcome, "Davis acknowledged. "We're taking the cost element out of it by partnering with payers."

ZixCorp partnered with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Tufts Health Plan to create the e-RX Collaborative in October 2003 (Neighborhood Health Plan is now also part of the project). The collaborative provides handheld e-prescribing devices to 1,800 physicians. Another 1,600 docs are slated to receive devices in the coming months. Physicians who are participating in the project receive appropriate hardware at no cost, a year's license for PocketScript software, six months of connectivity and free training.

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