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Computerized Physician Order Entry: A Massachusetts insurer pressures hospitals to drop paper prescriptions

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Starting in 2012, doctors in Massachusetts hospitals must order medications, tests, and procedures using computerized physician order entry (CPOE) if those hospitals want to earn quality-of-care bonuses from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

Starting in 2012, doctors in Massachusetts hospitals must order medications, tests, and procedures electronically if those hospitals want to earn quality-of-care bonuses from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

The technical name for what the insurer seeks is computerized physician order entry, or CPOE. It’s considered a key to reducing prescription errors, in part because of its ability to warn doctors about drug interactions and allergies. The insurer also touts the efficiency and economy possible through CPOE, noting that 13 state hospitals already using the technology have saved on average $2.7 million per year per institution.

An insurer can’t force hospitals to use CPOE, but it can make it tough for them not to. The Massachusetts Blues have the necessary club in the form of a program that gives bonuses to hospitals for meeting certain quality-of-care standards and patient-safety goals. After 2012, hospitals can’t participate in the program if they don’t deploy CPOE.

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