ePhysician Puts Rx in Doctors’ Hands

Banking on more doctors relying on “virtual offices,” e-commerce network ephysician.com is launching the first mobile Internet link that will enable physicians to tap into patient information and order lab tests and prescriptions using a handheld computer.

With the launch of ePhysician 1.0, 10,000 qualified health professionals will get a chance to try the service — using handheld computers provided free of charge by ePhysician. Users with a “porfolio management application” will be able to send information to the ePhysician e-commerce server, which in turn will send orders to any U.S. lab or pharmacy, by fax or electronically.

Ultimately, ePhysician hopes to broaden the service to offer a “Web-based mobile” practice with vast quantities of patient records and medical reference material in the palm of the hand.

Better Care, Lower Costs Promised

The privately held company, led by a physician and backed by venture capital firms Benchmark Capital and Sierra Ventures, says ePhysician will improve care and lower costs by reducing phone calls at doctor’s offices and clinics, pharmacies and labs.

“ePhysician will create huge efficiencies in the doctor’s office, where a large portion of the $1 trillion (US$) in healthcare costs originate,” said David Beirne, an ePhysician board member and general partner at Benchmark. “This company will be the leader in Internet and handheld technology for healthcare professionals.”

Along with placing orders, users will be able to gather information and get answers to questions about prescriptions. The service also should reduce the number of adverse drug reactions to prescriptions, ePhysican said, citing an American Medical Association study that found adverse reactions drop 55 percent when physicians prescribe electronically.

Making e-prescriptions “Industry Standard”

Early reviews suggest huge market potential. “Electronic prescribing offers a perfect vehicle for pharmacies to provide a more accurate, efficient and informative service,” said Bill Razzouk, CEO of online pharmacy PlanetRx, one of a handful of well-known and growing health-related sites. “By providing easy-to-use, handheld technology, ePhysician is talking the lead in making electronic prescribing an industry standard.”

And if following the venture capitalists’ every move really is a barometer to gauge potential, the backing of Benchmark Capital and Sierra Ventures should bode well for ePhysician. Both specialize in healthcare and technology and have made numerous bets that have paid off handsomely.

Benchmark, with $400 million in committed venture capital, lists on its portfolio eBay and Scient. Sierra, with $600 million in committed capital, has backed big names including Bridge Medical and Intuit.

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