Saturday, June 24, 2000

Wireless device to link doctors, insurers

By John J. Byczkowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A family doctor in Westwood, Dr. Ted Bort, said each day he'll see 30 patients, with at least that many insurance plans. Each plan has a formulary — a list of drugs it approves for use for its customers.

        Dr. Bort said each formulary is the size of a phone book, and is usually out of date the day it arrives in the mail. “I don't have an office big enough to store them,” let alone the time to read them.

        Sounds like a job for computers. Dr. Bort is co-founder of PocketScript Inc. of Mason, which is developing a wireless prescription system to tie together doctors, pharmacies, patient records and formularies.

        PocketScript this week landed on the map, signing a deal with the nation's third-largest prescription benefit manager to put its technology in front of 15,000 doc tors. The three-year deal with Express Scripts of St. Louis puts PocketScript into eight states, and Dr. Bort said the company's development efforts will focus on Ohio and Texas.

        It's a big victory for a young company in a fledgling industry without a clear leader. “It validates what we're doing,” he said. “It says there's value for having physicians connected, giving them access to the Internet, giving them formulary infor mation along with drug interactions.”

        There are “10 companies that have proposed and begun developing some kind of handheld unit” for drug prescriptions, said Raymond Falci, an analyst at Bear Stearns in New York. “Very few if any have any meaningful number of units out here.”

        With drug costs rising and errors in prescriptions a concern, such systems offer more than convenience. A wireless prescription system “is probably one of the most obvious and attainable uses of technology in medical care,” he said.

        Express also has a deal with another leading wireless prescription company, Allscripts Inc. of Libertyville, Ill. Diana Baumohl of Express said her company likes PocketScript's technology and business model, but said Express will consider deals with other e-prescription companies.

        With 3 billion prescriptions written each year in the United States, “There's room for more than one company,” Dr. Bort said. “We think our tech is superior because (competitors) don't have Internet access.”

        He said PocketScript is in negotiations with the nation's two largest prescription benefits managers, Merck Medco Managed Care and PCS Health Prescriptions.


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