HHS panel promotes e-prescribing standards

HHS panel promotes e-prescribing standards

The National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics has recommended that the Health and Human Services Department recognize the e-prescribing transmission standard widely used by industry for electronic pharmaceutical ordering and prescribing.

Medicare reform legislation requires that an e-prescribing standard be implemented by 2006. The committee delivered its first set of recommendations to HHS secretary Tommy Thompson in a letter released last week.

NCVHS will make more recommendations in March to help HHS expedite a pilot for the e-prescribing standard. It must be compatible with the developing National Health Information Infrastructure, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Consolidated Health Informatics Initiative, said Dr. John Lumpkin, the committee chairman.

Physicians' current prescription methods are error-prone because of lack of access to the latest drug knowledge and to patients' medication and medical histories. Dispensers often cannot read handwritten prescriptions. Each year, more than 8 million U.S. outpatients experience adverse drug events, 130,000 of them life-threatening. E-prescribing systems could avoid more than 2 million such events annually, the committee said.

Various e-prescribing applications are in use for basic drug references and dosing calculations. But the lack of standards has forced the health care industry to use workarounds for many aspects of e-prescribing.

Among its nearly 50 recommendations, NCVHS said HHS should
recognize the widely used National Council for Prescription Drug Programs script standard for transmitting prescriptions electronically. The department should also fund coordination between the Health Level Seven clinical messaging standard and the script transmitting standard, the committee said.

'That would remove a barrier to electronic ordering and prescribing of medication,' Lumpkin said.

In March, NCVHS will recommend ways to use electronic signatures for e-prescribing, exchange of medical and medication histories, and identifiers for patients and drug formulas. The committee also supports a directory to identify prescribers, nursing facilities and pharmacies that accept e-prescribing transactions.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.


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