January 30, 2007

The NEPSI Challenge

Physicians who already signed up for the free Web-based e-prescribing software eRx NOW, provided by the National e-Prescribing Patient Safety Initiative (NEPSI), will begin receiving their free software tomorrow (January 31). According to their online FAQs, NEPSI  is a coalition of large corporations led by Allscripts and including Dell, Google, Microsoft, Intel, SureScripts, among many others. NEPSI sponsors are investing $100 million over the next five years to provide free Allscripts’ e-prescribing software to every U.S. physician as a way to jumpstart the use of e-prescribing software, and eventually electronic medical records, to reduce preventable medication errors and overall health care costs. NEPSI says,”We are not trying to lock providers into a one-vendor solution – we have a solution that works with any Electronic Health Record, Personal Health Record or practice management system from any vendor certified by the Certification Commission on Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT).” For more information from NEPSI, see the press release from earlier this month.

From ”Coalition Offers Doctors Free Electronic Prescriptions,” an article posted two weeks ago on Ziff-DAvis’ eWeek: “The [NEPSI] system will be able to transmit prescriptions electronically to over 95 percent of the nations’ pharmacies. Two of the health insurance companies in the coalition, Aetna and WellPoint, said that they would provide incentives for physicians to write electronic prescriptions. Another coalition member, Sprint Nextel, is offering free pocket PC phones to doctors who sign up early…The initiative is offering a free Web-based system that would instantly check prescriptions for interactions with other medications (powered by a database provided by Wolters Kluwer Health) and would also check how much a patient or plan would have to pay for a drug. Google is providing a custom search engine to help physicians find relevant information for themselves or patients. Patient information will be stored remotely so that it will not be compromised if a doctors’ phone or computer is stolen.” 

This is not the first such effort. The article recalls how, in 2004, one coalition member—health insurer giant Wellpoint—invested $42 million in an effort to provide free e-prescribing software. “Doctors took the free stuff, but did not use it for the intended purposes. Since then, however, health IT evangelists have made large headways to create more positive attitudes toward health IT. ”

That same year, a second e-prescribing initiative involving many of the same NEPSI founders, Cafe Rx, also dissolved. Digital Healthcare & Productivity’s article, Free ePrescribing S/W Initiative Stirs Interest and Debate, goes into greater detail regarding Cafe Rx and quotes several competitors who speculate regarding NEPSI’s ulterior motives, along with replies from Glen Tullman, Allscripts CEO. “Tullman is clear that neither Google nor anyone else will mine data collected as part of the eRx NOW program and use the results for marketing purposes. ‘Patients and physicians will have unique access to all the information…Google will have no access to data we receive as part of the electronic prescribing process.’ Other questions raised about the e-prescribing program focus on accessibility of patient demographics and drug formularies. Notably absent from the list of NEPSI sponsors and supporters was RxHub, a joint venture of major pharmacy-benefit management companies that provides real-time electronic connectivity to patient-specific formulary and drug-benefit information. Tullman acknowledges that many users would have to find a third party to link the prescribing software to existing practice management and billing systems, but says that eRx NOW follows established standards to make the link. ‘We’re happy to interface with any practice management system.’ Tullman also addressed the formulary question by saying that Allscripts has access to eligibility and preferred-drug lists of more than 95 percent of payers nationwide via SureScripts and through the company’s own business relationships. He said that Allscripts was having discussions with RxHub and with practice management vendor Per-Se Technologies—now a part of McKesson due to an acquisition that closed last week—to find ways to pre-populate eRxNOW.”

January 10, 2007

Apple bites into the telecommunications market

Filed under: — mlazoff

Not to be outdone by the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, San Francisco’s Macworld Conference and Expo has its own attention-getting promo that might be of interest to physicians with smartphones. According to a Personal Technology article in today’s Washington Post, “[t]he iPhone, which should be available through Cingular Wireless in June, pending approval by the Federal Communications Commission, would be priced at $499 for a 4-gigabyte model and $599 for an 8-gigabyte model. The device will run the Mac OS X operating system and a full version of Apple’s Web browser, Safari.” Features include three built-in sensors related to its touchscreen functionality. It will have a battery life of five hours of talk time, video playback or Web browsing and 16 hours of audio playback. ”Companies have tried for years to build a slick, intuitive device that does everything Apple is promising with the iPhone. But this gadget class is still largely the realm of early adopters — consumers who latch on to new technologies.” The 4.8 ounce, half-inch thick iPhone will not be for sale before June.

January 8, 2007

A Trio of Windows-based Treos

Filed under: — mlazoff

Last month, PC World PDA/cell hybrid reviews published a short comparison on the two new Windows-based Treos from Palm.  Both Verizon’s Treo 700w and the newer Sprint Treo 700wx are laden with multimedia features typical of other mobile devices that run Microsoft Windows operating system (OS). Verizon and Sprint subscribers who prefer Palm OS can choose Treo 700p. All Treo 700s uses CMDA network’s high speed EV-DO technology.

Cingular users can purchase Palm-based Treo 680; no need for the ”p” subscript as Palm OS was the only Treo available to Cingular subscribers—until today’s release of the Windows-based Treo 750, which also takes advantage of new broadband speeds comparable to the Treo 700. Treo 750 was previewed by PC World yesterday at the hugely promoted Consumer Electronics Show

T-Mobile subscribers who wish to purchase a Treo through a service plan are out of luck—though T-Mobile, like Cingular, uses the GSM network, so subscribers should eventually be able to purchase the unlocked version of Treo 750 at the full retail price through Palm (or eBay), just as they did with the Treo 680. Alas, no word yet on a high speed Palm-based Treo for GSM-network users. 

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