Government News
Govt. Urges Physicians to Adopt Medicare E-Prescribing Standards
Psychiatric News
Volume 40 Number 5 page 10-10

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is encouraging physicians and pharmacies to adopt its proposed electronic-prescribing standards for Medicare patients who sign up for the new Part D prescription drug benefit.

The proposed Medicare e-prescribing rule was published in the February 4 Federal Register, and public comments will be accepted through April 5.

"We are committed to widespread use of e-prescribing as quickly as possible," said Mark McClellan, M.D., Ph.D., administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), in a press release.

"In issuing these proposed rules today, seven months ahead of the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) deadline, we are laying the foundation for having major e-prescribing standards in place when the Medicare prescription drug benefit begins next January," McClellan stated (see story above).

CMS will require prescription drug plans to support electronic prescribing as a condition of participation in the new Medicare Part D drug benefit. However, compliance with the rules is voluntary for physicians and pharmacies.

President George W. Bush signed the MMA into law December 2003. To promote patient safety and reduce costly medication errors, the law mandated that the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics (NCVHS) develop recommendations for uniform standards for e-prescribing.

"The current lack of standards is a barrier to the use of health-information technology including e-prescribing," according to HHS.

From March 2004 to September 2004, the NCVHS heard testimony from 65 witnesses including industry experts, software developers, and representatives of e-prescribing networks, demonstration projects, and consumer advocacy organizations.

The proposed e-prescribing regulations are based on the NCVHS's recommendations to the HHS secretary. The regulations will set standards for the following:

CMS proposes to make the compliance date for these standards January 1, 2006, "to be ready for immediate use with the Medicare drug benefit," according to HHS.

Additional electronic information can be used with these standards to provide more support for using drugs safely and effectively, according to the HHS statement.

A summary of the proposed Medicare e-prescribing rule and a link to the full rule are posted online at<www.cms.hhs.gov/providerupdate/regsum.asp#0011p>. Information on NCVHS deliberations and recommendations on e-prescribing are posted at<http://ncvhs.hhs.gov>.

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