Keystone's Blue Cross provides physicians with PDAs

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Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania is embarking on an initiative that will put clinical information at the point of patient care. The Wilkes-Barre, Pa.-based not-for-profit healthcare company is distributing 250 handheld computers to physicians in an effort to improve patient safety and to reduce prescription drug costs.
   
The personal digital assistants (PDAs) will be powered by Epocrates Essentials mobile clinical reference suite. Blue Cross said it will provide an additional 250 subscriptions to physicians who already have PDAs, giving them access to the Essentials suite that includes decision support applications.
   
The plan will help physicians prescribe the most appropriate medications to all patients. It also will help patients by reducing their chances of experiencing adverse drug interactions, said Denise Cesare, Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania president and CEO.
   
The Blue Cross list of covered drugs is available through the Epocrates hand-held drug references designed for the Palm OS and Pocket PC platforms and through the Epocrates Rx Online reference available for internet-connected desktop computers. Physicians can download Epocrates products via the internet. They are currently used by more than 28 percent of Pennsylvania physicians, Blue Cross said.
   
Using one feature of the Epocrates Essentials suite, providers can check formulary status, prior authorization requirements, alternatives, generic substitutes and quantity limits. Overall, Essentials includes more than 3,500 drug monographs, along with adult and pediatric dosing, contraindications and cautions and adverse reactions, and the MultiCheck function capable of checking up to 30 drugs simultaneously for interactions; an infectious disease treatment guide; 1,200 conditions and diagnoses described in extensive detail, with signs and symptoms, differential diagnoses, quick treatment reminders and more; and a lab reference covering hundreds of diagnostic tests and panels including information on collection, preparation and cautions, interpretation (disease, drug and spurious causes) and follow-up guidelines.