High-Tech Tool Helps Physicians Reduce Medical Errors and Prescription Drug Costs

ePocrates Offers Instant Access to Prescription Drug Information and Clinical Data Through Handheld PDAs and the Internet

BATON ROUGE, La., and SAN MATEO, Calif., Jan. 6, 2004 -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana has turned to ePocrates technology to enable its physicians and other health care professionals to compare the co-pay levels of prescription drugs for their patients and provide the most up-to-date clinical information such as dosing and drug interactions, before a prescription is written.

Providers will have access to Blue Cross' formulary, or list of covered drugs, through ePocrates' hand-held drug reference guide designed for the Palm OS and Pocket PC platforms and through ePocrates Rx Online(TM) available for Internet-connected desktop computers. All ePocrates products are easily downloadable via the Internet and are currently used by more than 130,000 U.S. physicians, including more than 1,700 in Louisiana.

By accessing the ePocrates application at the point of care, providers immediately can see the latest list of drugs and the associated Blue Cross insurance coverage, scan the different drug options and check for drug interactions involving a patient's current medications. This enables the physician to prescribe appropriate medications that are covered at the lowest co-payment for the patient. Prescription cost information is important because co-payment levels can vary depending on whether the drug is available in a generic, brand-name, multi-source brand or injectable.

"The cost of prescription drugs continues to be one of the major drivers of health care inflation. By combining the Blue Cross formulary information with the clinical data available through ePocrates, we will be able to provide physicians with information that will improve patient safety and make it easier to select more cost-effective alternatives when writing prescriptions," said Milam Ford, director of pharmacy services for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana. "This high-tech tool can help our members save money on prescription drugs. It will also streamline the prescription-writing process and make it more convenient for our members, doctors and pharmacies."

In the past, doctors had to check each insurance company's printed formulary to determine which drugs were covered, resulting in less out-of- pocket expense to his or her patients. These books quickly become outdated, making it difficult to get access to the most up-to-date benefit information without calling the insurance company. As a result, doctors sometimes write prescriptions for medications that are not covered through the patient's insurance company, or that are covered at the highest co-payment. The patient typically doesn't see that price until he or she is getting the prescription filled. At that point, selecting a more cost-effective medication requires phone calls between the pharmacy and the doctor's office.

A case study by ePocrates on the impact of handheld formulary information, integrated with clinical content, on the prescribing choices and workflow of physicians was presented at an Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy conference. The case study, which was prepared with participation from two medical groups in Connecticut, showed a 64 percent reduction in phone calls from the pharmacy, and an 88 percent greater likelihood that the physician would refer to formulary information provided on a handheld device before prescribing, as compared to a paper reference.

"The decision by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana to host its formulary information with ePocrates was in direct response to feedback from its provider network, who wanted the benefits of having access at the point of care to both formulary information and ePocrates respected clinical resources. Now, formulary compliance will be enhanced, administrative burdens on providers and pharmacists reduced, and very importantly, patient safety and satisfaction increased," said Andrew Burns, ePocrates vice president of health services.

About ePocrates, Inc.

San Mateo, California-based ePocrates Inc. is the leader in providing clinical information to physicians and other health care professionals at the point of care. Over 325,000 health care professionals, including over 130,000 U.S. physicians, currently subscribe to a version of the ePocrates Rx(R) drug reference, including ePocrates Rx, its core clinical reference guide, ePocrates Rx Pro(TM), which also includes an herbal database and an infectious disease application, and ePocrates Rx Online(TM), which extends access via the Internet and provides additional features like printable patient education information. ePocrates also provides formulary information from health plans, hospitals, Medicaid agencies and pharmacy benefit management (PBM) companies that represent over 95 million individuals, and messaging, market research and clinical trial recruitment services. For more information on ePocrates, visit http://www.epocrates.com.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is Louisiana owned and operated. Marking its 70th anniversary this year, the company is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. It is a tax-paying mutual company, owned by its policyholders. The company, headquartered in Baton Rouge, also has district offices in Alexandria, Houma, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Monroe, New Orleans and Shreveport. The company's subsidiaries include HMO Louisiana, Inc. and Southern National Life Insurance Company, Inc. More information can be found at the company's website, http://www.bcbsla.com.

SOURCE ePocrates, Inc.

Web Site: http://www.epocrates.com