Magazine article Drug Topics

Pharmacy to Share Benefits of Growing Link to Physicians

Magazine article Drug Topics

Pharmacy to Share Benefits of Growing Link to Physicians

Article excerpt

When enough physicians power up their practices with computers, pharmacists will no longer waste costly time hanging on telephone lines. A few keystrokes will send prescriptions and refill authorizations zipping back and forth faster than a New York nanosecond.

Allowing physicians and pharmacists to talk via computer will save them both time and money, cut down on prescription fraud, and improve patient care and satisfaction, executives of four systems vendors told attendees at the recent National Association of Chain Drug Stores pharmacy conference in San Diego.

While electronic prescribing is new, some studies have already shown its value. Carl Rawlings, sales v.p. with the Landmark Data affiliate of PDX Inc., pointed to a recent study finding that electronic Rx refills saved about three minutes per refill request. "Each physician received between 40 and 50 calls a day from pharmacies," he told his audience. "And there are 10 physicians in the office, so you can do the numbers on how much time was saved each day."

When the technology vendor ProxyMed Inc. was still a chain of 25 managed care pharmacies based in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., electronic connectivity silenced the telephones, said Jack Guinan, president. More important, he said, technology allowed the firm to accept third-party plans with very low reimbursement rates and still maintain 28% gross margins on Rxs. "It made all the difference in the world to our efficiency and profit margins," he said. "We used to be you; we know what we can accomplish for pharmacy. It's about providing greater gross margins, but there has to be connectivity with the physician side. We're working on that."

Pharmacists currently have two ways to hook up to networks linked to physicians. One is a stand-alone black box arrangement, separate from the pharmacy's main computer system; the other is an integrated system, with the Rx and refill software residing in the pharmacy's operating system.

"The stand-alone system is not the most efficient, because of double data entry," said Simon Eisenberg, PCS Health Systems' director of health systems management. "The one we're excited about is the integrated system. The pharmacist pushes a function key, and off goes the refill authorization to the physician's office."

Constructing physician-pharmacy connectivity in an open environment is a must, the vendor executives agreed. …

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