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Large Employers Put Electronic Prescriptions into Health Plans

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By Rita Zeidner, November 2007

Electronic prescriptions reduce medication errors significantly, according to a coalition of employers, unions, insurers and health care providers in Michigan.

The analysis, released by the Southeast Michigan ePrescribing Initiative (SEMI), is the first to examine how electronic prescriptions can improve patient care and reduce insurance costs.

The SEMI coalition includes General Motors, Ford Motor Co., Chrysler LLC, the United Auto Workers, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Health Alliance Plan, Henry Ford Medical Group, Medco Health Solutions Inc. and CVS Caremark Corp.

Based on the initial analysis, SEMI members say they will extend the ePrescribing initiative into 2008, continuing to enroll physicians through March. Since the program's inception, SEMI coalition partners have invested more than $1 million, with over $500,000 going directly to participating physicians and groups to help fund their related technology investments.

"The SEMI program results provide important proof that ePrescribing is a critical tool for physicians in improving patient safety," said Marsha Manning, GM's manager of Southeast Michigan community health care initiatives. "The benefits of ePrescribing are overwhelming in terms of reducing medication errors, lowering prescription drug costs for patients and plans, and decreasing physician practices' administrative costs."

Among a sample of 3.3 million electronic prescriptions reviewed:

  • A severe or moderate drug-to-drug alert was sent to physicians for more than 1 million prescriptions (33 percent); of those, more than 40 percent were changed or canceled by the prescribing doctor.
  • More than 100,000 medication allergy alerts were presented, of which more than 41,000 (41 percent) were acted upon.
  • When a formulary alert was presented, 39 percent of the time the physician changed the prescription to comply with formulary requirements.

Launched in February 2005, SEMI is one of the largest employer-driven initiatives to encourage the adoption and use of electronic prescriptions and to validate the impact of related technology on improving patient safety and reducing prescription drug costs, according to a SEMI press release.

Rita Zeidner is manager of the SHRM Online HR Technology Focus Area.

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