Technology News

Published Online: Wednesday, June 15, 2011

CMS Relaxes e-Prescribing Rule

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced in May that it will take a more flexible approach to its incentive program for electronic prescribing. Under a proposed rule issued May 26, 2011, CMS will offer more exemptions for physicians who fail to comply with Medicare’s 2011 requirements for e-prescriptions.

The current regulation states that physicians who do not file at least 10 electronic prescriptions with CMS by June 30, 2011, will be subject to a 1% cut in Medicare Part B payments in 2012, a 1.5% cut in 2013, and a 2% cut in 2014. The proposed rule is designed to facilitate a more gradual transition to e-prescribing and gives physicians several new opportunities to avoid these penalties.

It grants “hardship exemptions” to physicians who practice in rural areas, where access to high-speed Internet is limited, or in areas where pharmacies are not equipped to accept electronic prescriptions. Exemptions would also be available to participants in Medicare’s electronic health records incentive program, physicians with limited prescribing activity, and those who prescribe narcotics in areas where regulations prohibit e-prescribing for controlled substances.

Patrick Conway, MD, MSc, chief medical officer at CMS and director of the center’s Office of Clinical Standards and Quality, said the proposed rule “will continue to encourage adoption of electronic prescribing while acknowledging circumstances that may keep health professionals from realizing the full potential of these systems right away.” CMS will accept public comments on the changes until July 25, 2011.

Google Plagued by Rogue Pharmacy Ads

The ongoing investigation into whether Google knowingly aided rogue Internet pharmacies intensified last month, when a report by the Wall Street Journal revealed that the search giant was repeatedly warned that drug ads on its network may have been linked to criminal activity.

On May 10, 2011, Google disclosed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the company had set aside $500 million for “potential resolution of an investigation by the United States Department of Justice into the use of Google advertising by certain advertisers.”

Ten days later, WSJ reported that Google was asked multiple times by both the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse and the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) to adopt a more rigorous screening process for pharmacies seeking to market their products online.

The finding was based on a review of interviews and letters dating back to 2003. In a letter to Google that year, NABP Executive Director Mary Dickson wrote that her organization was “deeply concerned that these rogue Internet sites could be a front for criminals seeking to introduce adulterated medications, counterfeit drugs, or worse, to the American market.”

In the same letter, Dickson urged Google to limit the sales of sponsored links to pharmacies that are certified by NABP as Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS). A similar request was made in 2008; at the time, Google was using a thirdparty site, PharmacyChecker.com, to verify its pharmacy advertisers. The company finally switched to VIPPS in 2010, and in 2011 joined several other search sites as supporters of NABP’s “Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies.”

To be accredited under the VIPPS program, online pharmacies must comply with state licensing and inspection requirements, meet strict standards for privacy, security, and quality, and provide “meaningful consultation between patients and pharmacists.” On its Web site, NAPB states that 96% of the online pharmacies it reviews fail to meet all of these qualifications. The full list of NABP-recommended sites is available at http://phrmcyt.ms/lvfZ07.

Mhealth Market Set for Rapid Growth

Tech-savvy patients may soon have a broader selection of disease-monitoring gadgets to help them stay connected to members of their health care team. According to a new report by market research firm TechNavio, the global market for remote health monitoring systems is expected to reach $9.3 billion by 2014.

The positive trajectory is largely due to recent advancements mobile technology that allow for broader use of the mHealth devices, analysts reported in “Global Patient Monitoring Systems Market 2010-2014.” They expect a majority of that growth to come from Asia and Europe, as the systems’ high price is a hindrance in still-sluggish US economy.

Philips Healthcare, GE Healthcare, Omron Healthcare, Drager Medical Gmbh, and Johnson and Johnson are among the mHealth players TechNavio factored into its analysis. Despite finding that the current price of the systems is cost prohibitive, the report emphasized the potential savings that health care providers can reap from monitoring patients remotely.

“Remote patient monitoring helps healthcare centers reduce costs and increase business opportunities for healthcare service providers while integrating systems and providing necessary operational facilities,” the authors wrote. PT 



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