By Neil Versel
July 1, 2008 | After years of mostly not competing with each other and occasional talks of combining, the two major electronic prescribing connectivity networks, SureScripts (Alexandria, Va.) and RxHub (St. Paul, Minn.), have merged.
“This is a very complementary merger of all aspects of ePrescribing,” says acting RxHub chief executive J.P. Little. The cashless combination of two not-for-profit corporations, announced Tuesday, brings together the eligibility checking and connectivity to mail-order pharmacies of RxHub and the electronic links to 95 percent of U.S. retail pharmacies that SureScripts has built.
RxHub was a venture of the three largest pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), namely CVS Caremark, Express Scripts, and Medco Health Solutions. SureScripts was a joint effort of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association. Both were founded in 2001. Little says the two sides had discussed a merger on and off for the past five years.
The PBMs together will hold 50 percent ownership in the combined entity, temporarily saddled with the unwieldy moniker of SureScripts-RxHub, and the two SureScripts partners will split the other 50 percent interest, the organizations say. Little assures Digital HealthCare & Productivity that a name change is in the works.
“This will take a lot of friction out of the technology industry,” Little says. When SureScripts and RxHub complete the integration of their databases and operations, hopefully in the next six to 12 months, vendors no longer will have to certify their products separately on each network or sign multiple contracts, the RxHub chief says.
Initially, the new organization will operate as two divisions with Little and SureScripts boss Rick Ratliff working as co-CEOs, looking for “low-hanging fruit” to consolidate first, Little says. He says he hopes the merger will create synergies that will lower costs for health IT vendors, health insurers, and the pharmacies that have been paying for the convenience of receiving a small number of electronic prescriptions.
Little says the combination will give SureScripts-RxHub access to prescription histories and insurance data of close to 250 million people, or more than 80 percent of the U.S. population, a critical mass that might convince more physicians to adopt ePrescribing. “It will be more relevant to docs if they can get patient information 80 percent to 90 percent of the time,” says Little.