CMS proposes e-prescribing standards

CMS proposes e-prescribing standards

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services yesterday proposed regulations for the use of electronic prescriptions in conjunction with a new Medicare drug benefit that takes effect January 2006.

Electronic prescribing lets physicians digitally transmit prescriptions to pharmacies, obtain drug plan eligibility information and look up a patient's medication history. According to proponents, e-prescribing will improve safety and reduce costs by decreasing prescription errors due to illegible physician handwriting and by automatically checking for drug interactions and allergies.

Standards are expected to spur the use of e-prescribing throughout the nation's health care system.

'We are committed to widespread use of e-prescribing as quickly as possible,' said CMS Administrator Mark McClellan. CMS, an agency of the Health and Human Services Department, issued the proposed rules seven months ahead of the deadline set by the Medicare Modernization Act so that they would be in place when the Medicare drug benefit begins.

Medicare reform legislation requires drug plan participants in the new prescription benefit program to support e-prescribing, but it will be voluntary for physicians and pharmacies.

The standards reflect a consensus of stakeholders in the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics, a public-private advisory group. The proposed rules will be published in the Feb. 4 Federal Register.

Also yesterday, President Bush was in Cleveland, urging the use of electronic health records to reduce medical mistakes and costs. And eight large IT companies, including IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Oracle Corp., have formed a consortium to advocate using open standards in building a nationwide health information network that HHS has proposed.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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