HHS Turns Up Heat on ePrescribe

Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt wrote in his blog that he wants to see Medicare and Medicaid and large federal health care providers make e-prescribing “a mandatory part of medical practice soon.”

Leavitt wrote in his blog that a low rate of adoption by physicians has slowed e-prescribing nationwide. “Most doctors haven’t invested in the necessary technology to do e-prescribing,” he wrote. “The reasons are complex and range from a perceived lack of financial incentives to a reluctance to give up the familiar prescription pad. It is not expensive. This change needs to happen, and from my standpoint, sooner rather than later.”

Leavitt did not define what he meant by soon, and I’ve not heard back from HHS asking about it. But the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services released Nov. 16 final standards for the Medicare e-prescribing program, which covers million of patients. Ray Sass, an HHS spokesman, said he expected these rules to be adopted in less than a year.

Lee Shapiro, president of Allscripts, an electronic health record and e-prescribing software vendor, said cost should be no impediment to adoption of e-prescribing. Allscripts, along with its partners in the National ePrescribing Software Initiative, have offered to provide free software to any clinician in the country who wants to give up their prescription pads and enter the electronic age.

Shapiro said e-prescribing will help cut billions of dollars a year from the national heath care bill and go a long way to reducing the 7,000 deaths a year caused by adverse drug reactions.