Growing e-Rx

Surescripts, the electronic prescribing company founded in 2001 by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association, will hit the ground running in 2010. The company begins the year with a significant price reduction, and plans to expand applications for pharmacies and their patients. Drug Store News spoke with Surescripts president and CEO Harry Totonis in mid-December for a preview of coming activities.

Drug Store News: Can you describe progress to date on the rollout of e-prescribing to the nation’s pharmacies and physicians?

Harry Totonis: We’ve had tremendous growth and now have more than 150,000 physicians on the network who are actively using e-prescribing, up from 74,000 a year ago. We’ll end up with closer to 160,000 by end of year.

There are 52,000 pharmacies now receiving e-prescriptions, up from 46,000. One hundred percent of the pharmacies in Rhode Island are connected. There’s still a long way to go, since the [national] total represents about 15% of all prescriptions done electronically, but it’s still tremendous growth since last year.

DrSN: What’s coming up for 2010?

Totonis: We are announcing lower prices for e-prescribing, effective Jan. 1. Although prices of electronic prescribing have never increased in the entire history of Surescripts, effective Jan. 1, the pricing for e-prescriptions for routing, as well as for the benefit information, is getting lower.

DrSN: What led to the change?

Totonis: Part of Surescripts’ goal through our growth, and through our merger last year with RxHub, was a promise that we would drive the cost of e-prescriptions down. This price reduction next year is the first delivery on that commitment. This has been very well received in the market, by both chain and independent pharmacies. It’s something that everyone has been asking: When is the price of an e-prescription going to go down?

DrSN: Is this a one-time price reduction?

Totonis: We have a commitment that this is not the only price reduction we’re going to do. We’re going to continue to drive the cost of e-prescribing down as efficiency and scale and our economics improve, and we’re going to pass those economics to the industry.

DrSN: How much do you predict prices will go down for pharmacy providers?

Totonis: The price reductions will vary. The reason is that we connect pharmacies and prescribers, but between us and them there are software vendors. Some of those vendors and the other aggregators set their own prices, and we can’t dictate those prices. But we are reducing our costs by 10% to 20%. Depending on whether you’re a chain or an independent, and the types of service, what you pay will vary.

DrSN: Are there other initiatives coming in 2010?

Totonis: We’re going to be offering better connectivity between pharmacies and the providers of patients’ personal health records, like Google and Microsoft. We’ll be providing a service where, if a patient is properly authenticated and wants access to his or her medication records…rather than having to go directly to each pharmacy, we’ll be working with the pharmacies to provide that access.