GM and WellPoint are partners in e-prescribing pilot

The companies will test a plan to offer financial incentives encouraging Ohio physicians to prescribe electronically.

By Tyler Chin — Posted Feb. 12, 2007

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General Motors Corp. and WellPoint Inc. announced on Jan. 22 that they will pay for software and hardware costs to encourage 100 doctors in Ohio to test electronic prescribing.

Under a one-year pilot test, WellPoint is offering a 1% increase in the total fee schedule to physicians who implement e-prescribing technology.

The plan also will reimburse doctors up to $750 for computer hardware and cover a $35 monthly subscription fee for a physician portal from MedPlus Inc., a subsidiary of Quest Diagnostics, said Sam Shalaby, director of community health care initiatives at GM. The portal enables doctors to order tests, retrieve results, prescribe electronically, and access drug formularies and decision support.

The incentives are being offered to physicians in Dayton, Warren and Youngstown as part of the automaker's plan to roll out the technology to areas where it has a high concentration of employees, Shalaby said.

In 2005, GM teamed up with competing automakers and two health plans to provide financial incentives to get doctors in southeast Michigan to adopt e-prescribing technology.

From that program, the organizers learned that they initially didn't offer enough incentives and technology support to entice doctors, leading them to double the incentives from $500 to $1,000 per physician and beef up support, said Marsha Manning, manager of the southeast Michigan community health care initiative at GM.

Today, 1,400 doctors are participating in the Southeast Michigan Electronic Prescribing Initiative, which is seeking to add another 400 physicians by the end of February.

That effort has helped improve patient safety, care and generic medication usage over the past 18 months, leading GM to partner with WellPoint's Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield subsidiary in Ohio. GM's goal is to expand the Ohio pilot to a total of 250 doctors within the next 12 months, and roll out the program to Indiana in 2007, a GM spokeswoman said.

GM is not involved in the recently-launched National ePrescribing Patient Safety Initiative under which a coalition of technology companies, insurers and employers are offering to provide free electronic prescribing systems to every doctor in the country. (See correction)

"We will be playing very close attention to the results in the Ohio pilot and NEPSI program," said Charles Kennedy, vice president of health information technology at WellPoint. "It would influence how we expand e-prescribing services throughout the nation, not just Ohio."

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This story originally incorrectly reported that WellPoint Inc. is not involved in the National ePrescribing Patient Safety Initiative. American Medical News regrets the error.

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