HHS awards $6 million in eprescribing pilot contracts

The Health and Human Services Department has awarded $6 million in contracts to launch a pilot project to test initial standards for electronic prescribing during this year.

The pilot will focus on the most fundamental aspects of how medications are prescribed and how to reduce errors, time and costs.

The standards may ultimately be adopted as the final standards that will create a system for electronic transmission of prescription information for the new Medicare Part D prescription drug program.

The pilot contracts are led by Rand Corp. of Santa Monica, Calif.; Brigham and Women's Hospital of Boston; SureScripts; and Achieve Healthcare Technologies in Eden Prairie, Minn.

'The new e-prescribing pilot project represents a major step forward in our work to develop and adopt standards for electronic medical and personal health records,' said HHS secretary Mike Leavitt yesterday in a statement.

Under the pilot project, four groups will measure the impact of e-prescribing data transmission systems on patient safety and quality of care, such as whether and how they reduce adverse drug events and improve the correct use of medications.

The project involves testing several systems of electronic data transmission standards and determining how efficiently and effectively prescriptions and related information can be sent to and received by the providers and pharmacies that are participating in e-prescribing for Medicare Part D beneficiaries.

'We expect that electronic prescribing will help improve quality, prevent medication errors, and reduce costs,' said Mark McClellan, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. CMS and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality will jointly administer the pilot.

The initial standards also will be tested for interoperability with three foundation standards that HHS adopted in November. These initial standards involve transactions that will support not only the electronic prescription itself but provide additional related information to help improve quality and lower cost.

For example, the standards in the e-prescribing pilot will enable physicians to obtain formulary information and medication history. It will also test new standardized ways of naming clinical drugs and their ingredients and of providing instructions for patients on how to take their medications.

The pilots demonstrate the federal government's commitment to use its clout as the nation's largest insurer to bring about change in healthcare, said Kevin Hutchinson, CEO of SureScripts of Alexandria, Va., a network provider of e-prescribing services and one of the awardees.

'Armed with the Medicare Modernization Act, secretary Leavitt and his team at HHS are accelerating market adoption of not just new technology, but the right technology,' he said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.


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