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DHS news release

Sept. 7, 2005


Contact: Patricia Feeny (503) 945-6955

Program contact: Allison Knight (503) 945-6590

State offers new electronic service to Oregon Health Plan medical providers



A new state-funded drug information reference service for Oregon physicians is one of several electronic innovations under way to make it easier for medical providers to do business with the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS).


DHS has contracted with California-based Epocrates to provide information electronically to physicians who prescribe for Oregon Health Plan patients. Oregon joins nine other state Medicaid programs that offer this service, which could increase speed and accuracy and reduce the state's $400 million annual Medicaid pharmaceutical budget, according to DHS Interim Director Bryan Johnston.


"This is a positive step forward as we work to continue to improve and create more efficient systems in the department," Johnston said. "This service will help doctors and other medical providers determine the least costly option from the state's voluntary preferred drug list, based on drug-effectiveness research that Oregon pioneered."


Physicians can also protect patient safety through this system by quickly identifying a particular drug's maximum monthly dosage or its interactions with other pharmaceuticals.


Physicians also receive free information downloads -- drug dosages and side effects, for example -- to electronic devices such as personal digital assistants. The regularly updated information is then readily available when they are prescribing for a patient.


Information will also include whether the state's Medicaid program will pay for drugs to treat specific conditions. This should reduce the frequency with which patients go to a pharmacy to have a drug prescription filled only to learn that Medicaid doesn't pay for it, Johnston said.


Many physicians responding to a recent survey -- which found, for example, about 70 percent didn't know what drugs the state recommends -- asked for the electronic service.


Johnston highlighted other innovations that are speeding up Oregon Health Plan processing and claims services:

  • Implementation of an electronic billing system, First Pass, which is designed to reduce delays and increase accuracy in paying thousands of medical providers claims;
  • Introduction of prompt electronic payments for any of the 30,000 to 50,000 billing claims received weekly (currently affecting about 60 percent of claims and 90 percent of dollar payments, resulting in cost savings for both providers and the state;
  • Automated email updates to providers when the state's Medicaid rules or practices change, as well as online training materials;
  • Planned 2007 installation of new Medicaid Management Information System software to process Health Plan data, replacing an outdated system purchased from the State of Missouri in the early 1980s.