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New WellPoint Initiative Jumpstarts Physicians' Participation in the Electronic Medical Community

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan. 14, 2004--

$40 Million in New Information Technology to be Provided to Doctors;

Tech Partners include Microsoft, Dell and Cap Gemini Ernst & Young

WellPoint (NYSE:WLP), the nation's second largest health insurer, today announced a technology initiative to help physicians improve patient care, achieve greater efficiency and realize cost savings for America's health care system. This initiative provides almost 19,000 contracting network physicians in California, Georgia, Missouri and Wisconsin with new technologies designed to enhance the quality of patient care, reduce administrative costs and improve physician communications with patients and pharmacists. The total retail value of the program is approximately $40 million.

Free of charge, selected physicians will have their choice of either:

    --  Prescription Improvement Package: A hand-held electronic
        prescribing unit, which will allow physicians to
        electronically generate prescriptions.

        --  Includes a wireless handheld PDA, a wireless access point
            and a one-year subscription to an e-prescribing service.

        --  Physicians will be able to use this system to easily write
            prescriptions and either have them automatically faxed or
            e-mailed to the pharmacy of their choice.

        --  With this package, physicians will be given a tool to
            improve the quality of care and safety for all of their
            patients.

    --  Paperwork Reduction Package: A fully-loaded professional grade
        Dell computer, and Dell printer to facilitate on-line
        communication, including paperless submission of claims.

        --  This package is targeted toward physicians who are not
            making full daily use of information technology or the
            Internet.

        --  The system will provide the basic infrastructure for
            on-line communication, including paperless submission of
            claims as well as improved communications regarding member
            eligibility and claims administration.

        --  Doctors will also be able to access the Provider Access
            websites of WellPoint's operating subsidiaries (or any
            other health plan website) where member eligibility, claim
            status and medical policies can be reviewed and verified.

"This program will help our network physicians more fully participate in the electronic medical community," said Leonard D. Schaeffer, WellPoint's chairman and chief executive officer. "By doing so, we are working to improve medical outcomes, reduce administrative costs, increase efficiency and improve the overall quality of medical care. Every doctor is different and every practice is different. We are giving physicians the opportunity to choose the technology package that will best meet the needs of their practice."

Schaeffer noted that computerized physician order entry (CPOE) for prescriptions has the capability to issue prompts that warn against the possibility of drug interaction, allergy or overdose as well as provide information that helps physicians keep up with new drugs as they are introduced into the market. CPOE also has the capability to provide drug-specific information that eliminates confusion among drug names that sound alike, improve communication between physicians and pharmacists and reduce health care costs due to improved efficiencies and fewer errors.

Schaeffer added that, "Through our technical partners, WellPoint is also offering a substantial discount on the same equipment choices to all network physicians throughout the nation who are in good standing."

"CPOE helps to resolve the prescription conflicts while the patient is still with the doctor and increases patient safety by helping to avoid errors," said Woodrow Myers, MD, WellPoint's chief medical officer. "CPOE can also make the physician's office more efficient by decreasing prescription-related calls. And most importantly, all of the physician's patients will benefit from this program -- not just those under our plans."

Dr. Myers cited studies by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) reporting that more than 7,000 deaths and up to seven percent of hospital admissions occur as a result of adverse drug effects. The IOM also reported that up to 95 percent of these adverse drug events could be avoided through CPOE.

In 2001 the IOM recommended that key industry participants work together to redesign processes focused on evidence-based decision-making, safety as a system priority and cooperation among clinicians. "Physician practices spend significant time dealing with prescriptions and refills," added Dr. Myers. "Computerized physician order entry provides a clean prescription to the pharmacies addressing any issues regarding the formulary, pre-authorization or safety. Although physicians are free to choose the package that best serves the needs of their practice, we are encouraging doctors who already have reduced administrative paperwork through desktop systems to select the e-prescribing option as it provides maximum value to their patients."

WellPoint estimates that there are thousands of physicians that are still engaged in paper claim processing, adding administrative cost to the nation's already burdened health care system. By choosing the Paperwork Reduction Package, which works with WellPoint's implemented consolidated technologies, physicians can utilize the Internet connection to submit claims faster and receive reimbursements in a more timely fashion.

"WellPoint's goal is to enhance the technological capabilities of providers and offer a mobility solution through CPOE and e-commerce with a package that can be easily adopted by the medical community and integrated with our current IT efforts," said Ron J. Ponder, WellPoint's chief information officer. The hardware will be provided by Dell Computers. Microsoft and its partners will supply the software. The project manager for the initiative is Cap Gemini Ernst & Young (CGE&Y).

"WellPoint has joined with industry leaders Dell, Microsoft and CGE&Y to deliver a mobility solution for America's doctors and for American health care," added Ponder. "The commitment of Dell and Microsoft to participate in this program represents a significant value to the doctors and their patients."

"Microsoft welcomes this breakthrough opportunity to work with WellPoint and selected health care partners. This joint initiative demonstrates how our technologies can assist providers and health plans improve overall health care productivity, quality and safety by streamlining communications and dramatically reducing the errors often associated with prescription fulfillment," said Steve Shihadeh, general manager of Microsoft Healthcare (NASDAQ:MSFT). "We look forward to continued collaboration as we work to realize the advantages of technology in the health care industry."

"Dell's focus on standards-based systems makes the latest technology more accessible to customers who want to pay less for better performance, gain greater flexibility and enjoy lower operating costs," said Joe Marengi, senior vice president of Dell Americas. "This partnership with WellPoint will bring these benefits to doctors so they can achieve greater efficiencies in their practices and continue to offer their patients the best in health care services."

According to the industry studies, adoption of existing information technology could save the health care system a total of $125 billion in unnecessary paperwork. "The package offered by WellPoint is a key step in realizing these cost savings. Our customers look to us to operate more efficiently so that we can provide more resources to fund appropriate medical care," said Dr. Myers. "Extra resources required to process a paper claim would be better directed toward making quality health care more affordable and accessible."

"Cap Gemini Ernst & Young is proud to be a part of WellPoint's unprecedented initiative to dramatically reshape the administrative efficiency of our health system," said John DiStefano, vice president and technology services leader for Cap Gemini Ernst & Young Health. "Teaming with WellPoint and an elite group of technology partners, we look forward to managing the rollout of the program to physicians in order to provide the highest quality of care and service to the ultimate customer -- the patient."

WellPoint Health Networks Inc. serves the health care needs of more than 14 million medical members and more than 44 million specialty members nationwide through Blue Cross of California, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Missouri, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wisconsin, HealthLink and UNICARE. Visit WellPoint on the web at www.wellpoint.com. Blue Cross of California, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Missouri and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wisconsin are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.


    CONTACT: WellPoint
             National Media Contact: Ken Ferber, 805-557-6794
             California Media Contact: Michael Chee, 805-557-6791
             Investor Contact: Angie McCabe, 805-557-6796

    SOURCE: WellPoint
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