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Medicare Incentives Encourage More Doctors E-Prescribe

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Wednesday, January 21, 2009 7:53 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, E-Prescribing, Medication Errors, Protecting Your Family


IMAGE SOURCE: © NationalErx

New incentives are prompting doctors to begin using electronic prescriptions, also known as E-prescribing, reports WSJ.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services describes E-Prescribing as, “A prescriber’s ability to electronically send an accurate, error-free and understandable prescription directly to the pharmacy from the point-of-care.”

In January, Medicare launched a new incentive program that will pay doctors a bonus for switching their patients to e-prescribing. For 2009 and 2010, the bonus is 2 percent of allowed Medicare charges. In 2011 and 2012, the bonus is 1 percent, and in 2013, it’s 0.5 percent.

Six percent of U.S. doctors are currently using “e-prescribing” although doing so may improve efficiency and reduce medication errors such as a pharmacy technician misreading a doctor’s messy handwriting or dispensing a different drug with a similar name.

Still, there are barriers to full-fledged adoption of e-prescribing. Federal drug laws, which are under review, bar e-prescribing controlled substances which includes anti-depressants, narcotics and insomnia drugs.

Safety experts warn that doctors can enter the wrong drug when selecting prescriptions in sequence order on a computer screen. For instance, the doctor may inadvertently select a quick-release version of a drug rather than long-acting formulation.

The software scans the patient’s drug history for medication allergies, adverse interactions with other drugs the patient is taking and improper dosages, all which can help prevent dangerous medication errors.

Studies have found that 4 percent of the estimated four billion prescriptions written in the U.S. each year contains an error with serious patient risks.

More than 1.5 million people are injured by preventable medication errors each year and over 7,000 people die. Medication error causes include prescribing the wrong type of drug, ordering an improper dose, giving a patient a drug that he or she is allergic to, or combining medications that are incompatible. These mistakes can lead to deadly consequences.

Savings & Records

In a study published last month, researchers found overall estimated savings added up to $845,000 a year for every 100,000 people filling prescriptions, based on 20 percent of doctors using e-prescribing. “Projected savings increase with more availability and use of e-prescribing; for complete e-prescribing use, savings are estimated at $3.91 million per 100,000 patients annually, the report found.”

Electronic prescribing is also expected to motivate wider use of electronic medical records, including features such as the storage of lab reports, medical histories and programs that will allow doctors to send patient reminders and alerts.

Medicare Penalties

Doctors who don’t e-prescribe by 2012 will see a 1 percent penalty. In 2013, the penalty jumps to 1.5 percent, and to 2 percent for 2014 and beyond.

E-prescribing and doctor incentives could save the federal government $26 billion over ten years, said Gorman Health Group, a consulting firm. E-prescribing also has the potential to prevent 1.9 million adverse drug events.

For more information, visit The National ePrescribing Patient Safety Initiative (NEPSI), a joint project of dedicated organizations that each plays a unique role in resolving the current crisis in preventable medication errors. #

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