DECEMBER 01, 2007

Electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) by the nation?s physicians figures to get a significant boost as a result of a new federal initiative encouraging doctors to reduce paperwork in their practices.

The program involves recruiting some 1200 doctors throughout the country to shift from paper to electronic records. Physicians participating in the program will receive extra payments from Medicare for ordering prescriptions online and performing other activities electronically. Only about 10% of the nation?s doctors currently engage in e-prescribing, and the cost of converting to an online system is considered a key stumbling block to wider participation.

Physicians who participate in the new program will receive several thousand dollars a year in additional Medicare reimbursement, according to officials at the Department of Health and Human Services. Significantly, however, a number of health care and consumer groups are losing patience with the pace of government efforts to stimulate e-prescribing.

In a letter to congressional leaders, a broad-based coalition of drug chains, consumer groups, labor organizations, and pharmacy benefit managers called for new federal rules requiring that e-prescribing be used for all Part D Medicare prescriptions. According to the coalition, such a step could prevent 1.9 million adverse drug events over the next 10 years and save billions of dollars for patients and taxpayers.