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Medicare to Pay Bonuses for E-prescribing-August 2008

Author: Lauren Green, Associate Editor

Medicare is taking new steps to speed the adoption of electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) by offering bonuses to those who use the technology. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says e-prescribing would eliminate thousands of medication errors every year.

Physicians who prescribe electronically for Part D patients will receive a 2% incentive payment in 2009 and 2010; a 1% incentive payment in 2011 and 2012; and a 0.5% incentive payment in 2013. After 5 years, bonuses for e-prescribing will be phased out.

Starting in 2012, those still using paper-only Rxs will receive a reduction in payment; however, some may be exempted from the payment reduction if it is determined that compliance with the new program would result in significant hardship, (eg, a doctor who practices in a rural area with insufficient Internet access).

HHS reports that Medicare will save up to $156 million over the 5 years of the program in avoided adverse drug events. It has been estimated that Medicare beneficiaries experience as many as 530,000 adverse drug events every year, contributed to, in part, by negative interactions with other drugs or a prescriber’s lack of information about the patient’s medication history.

The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) reports that >90% of the nation’s pharmacies are certified to receive prescriptions electronically. Pharmacy leaders note that e-prescribing not only improves the accuracy of prescriptions but gives pharmacists more time for counseling patients by reducing time spent in verifying paper prescriptions.

“Electronic prescribing is an important part of community pharmacy’s overall effort to enhance quality, minimize medication errors, and improve patient outcomes,” noted Bruce Roberts, RPh, NCPA executive vice president and chief executive officer.

The National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations is gathering information about pharmacists’ e-prescribing experiences; they can be reported at www.pqc.net/eprescribe/disclaimer.htm.