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
The proposed Medicare e-prescribing rule was published in the February 4
Federal Register, and public comments will be accepted through April
"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
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
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
The proposed e-prescribing regulations are based on the NCVHS's
recommendations to the HHS secretary. The regulations will set standards for
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
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