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Published Online: Saturday, December 1, 2007   [ Request Print ]

Caremark and Epocrates Partner to Improve Provider Relations

The Caremark Pharmacy Services division of CVS Caremark Corp and Epocrates recently announced a pilot agreement to make formulary and clinical information from Caremark more accessible to health care professionals via the Internet and on their mobile devices. The joint effort aims to support on-formulary prescribing and improve education about patient services and resources.

The >500,000 clinicians using Epocrates' drug reference software now have fast and convenient access to the National Caremark/Preferred Drug List and Caremark Prescribing Guide. Furthermore, all Medicare Part D formularies for Caremark clients are available, as well as the formulary for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Governmentwide Service Benefit Plan. Health care professionals can download the formulary lists they frequently reference onto to their mobile devices or access the lists via the online version for free. Epocrates regularly updates its formulary to make sure that current coverage information is available.

Caremark is also sharing relevant clinical information to Epocrates users on a quarterly basis via the Epocrates DocAlert service. Providers receive Epocrates' DocAlert messages, which are brief medical news alerts, directly on their mobile device to support clinical decisions and keep up-to-date at the point of care. The targeted messages will include information about selected specialty pharmacy services and disease management resources for patients as well as the availability and use of generics.

DOD Will Give FDA Access to Electronic Medical Records

The Department of Defense (DOD) has agreed to share part of its electronic medical records for 9.1 million military personnel and their families with the FDA to help the agency recognize problems and learn more about the efficacy of prescription drugs.

The FDA and Military Health System (MHS) officials held a series of meetings on implementation of the agreement. Prescription information from Tricare, the DOD health plan, is probably going to be the first data that the DOD provides to the FDA, according to MHS officials. Both agencies held agreed to protect the privacy of individuals whose medical records may be shared.

The agreement between the agencies was signed in July as part of the FDA's project to develop a Sentinel Network that will link medical databases and screen the data for signs of adverse drug effects. The network should also allow the FDA to assess over time whether a drug is effective in curing ailments or their symptoms.

Grants Will Help Expand Health Care IT

In an effort to help move health care information technology (IT) forward, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has awarded $31.4 million in grants to help health centers adopt electronic health records (EHRs) and other IT. The grants will help meet the White House's goal of adoption of EHRs for a majority of Americans by 2014.

The HRSA grants will include:

  • Twenty-five grants totaling >$27 million to support implementation of EHRs at health centers and in networks that link multiple health center grantees
  • Eight grants worth almost $1 million to help health centers plan activities that will prepare them to adopt EHRs or other health care IT innovations
  • Thirteen grants totaling >3 million to help health center networks implement health care IT other than EHRs, such as personal health records, community health records, and physician order entry

Medication Tracking System Gets Under Way

IBM recently launched an electronic pedigree system that follows medications through the supply chain until they reach the public. The system uses radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, which are already used to track packages of drugs, especially the drugs popular with counterfeiters.

The company's ePedigree system helps drug companies create electronic certificates for authenticity for medications— down to the individual bottle— as they go from manufacturers and distributors to pharmacies and hospitals. Although there is no guarantee that that RFID will eliminate counterfeiters, Chris Clauss, director of senior information management at IBM Software, said, "What we can do is raise the bar," and make it much harder.

Drug companies have been fighting a long battle against counterfeiting with the implementation of holograms and watermarks. The problem, however, was that they were reproduced within months, so that even their brand managers were unable to detect the difference between the counterfeit version and the real thing.

IBM's system will help companies comply with new regulations. For example, California's ePedigree law will necessitate that any medication distributed in the state have its life history attached to it—beginning with the drug manufacturer and ending with the pharmacy. California's law goes into effect in 2009.

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