Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island, Brown launch initiative to reduce adverse drug events 

Pills in pill container
The pilot was born from a "Shark Tank"-style summit hosted by BCBSRI. (Getty/Viperfzk)

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island and Brown Emergency Medicine are teaming up on a pilot program that aims to reduce adverse drug events, particularly among seniors. 

The program, called EQUIPPED, was selected at BCBSRI’s Provider Medical Expense Trend Summit, which convened providers within the insurers’ network for a “Shark Tank”-style event where they pitched cost and quality improvement pilots to their peers. 

Matthew Collins, M.D., vice president of clinical integration at the health plan, told FierceHealthcare said the idea started with BCBSRI soliciting ideas for such initiatives from the insurers’ employees—extending that to the providers was a natural next step. 

“There are a lot of really interesting ideas out there in the provider community,” Collins said. 

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EQUIPPED, which was pitched by Elizabeth Goldberg, M.D., an emergency physician at Brown, looks to reduce prescriptions for potentially inappropriate medications. These drugs can lead to unnecessary care and can lead to harmful side effects, especially in seniors. 

The program includes geriatric education, individualized provider feedback and electronic decision support tools with the goal of more effectively warning patients and clinicians about the risks for seniors that are associated with certain drugs. 

Collins said that there are a number of medications that can be prescribed easily to younger patients but require more careful consideration in the geriatric space. 

“Many of these are dangerous in elderly patients for various reasons—it's a lot to keep straight,” Collins said. 

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Clinicians are also given monthly report cards that assess their performance and offer additional insights on how they could improve.  

Goldberg’s pitch had data behind it, too—the pilot is built on previous initiatives spearheaded by researchers at Emory University and were launched at 11 Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and three civilian facilities. Across the board, potentially dangerous prescriptions have declined at these facilities. 

The project is also proactive, as estimates suggest that the number of Rhode Island residents aged 65 or older will double by 2040, according to BCBSRI. 

“We were looking at things that differentially impact Blue Cross & Blue Shield members,” Collins said. “This wasn’t one of those things. This is clearly going to benefit anybody.”