Political Changes Could Encourage E-Prescribing
Recent political developments could help SureScripts' mission of making "the barely legible doctor's prescription a thing of the past" through electronic prescribing, the Washington Post reports.
SureScripts, a company founded by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association, operates a network that allows physicians to send prescriptions to pharmacies through the Internet for a processing fee of up to 21 cents per transaction. According to SureScripts officials, the company will process 35 million prescriptions this year and 100 million prescriptions next year.
Lawmakers and HHS last week took several actions to encourage e-prescribing, which experts consider a "key component in a long-discussed national system of electronic health records."
Four senators proposed a bill that would require physicians who participate in Medicare to use e-prescribing by 2011 or face financial penalties. In addition, the legislation would provide physicians with a 1% bonus each time that they transmit a prescription electronically and funds to help cover costs associated with the adoption of the technology. The bill also would authorize the HHS secretary to provide physicians with one- or two-year hardship waivers in the event that cannot afford to adopt e-prescribing.
In addition to the legislation, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt sent a letter to lawmakers that asked them to prioritize efforts to encourage e-prescribing.
Experts maintain that e-prescribing can reduce medication errors, decrease costs and improve convenience. However, e-prescribing currently accounts for only about 2% of the estimated 1.5 billion prescriptions written annually in the U.S., according to SureScripts. Cost, state regulations and privacy concerns have limited broader use of e-prescribing, according to the Post.
E-prescribing software can cost physicians as much as $25,000, and some states until recently banned the use of the technology. In addition, some patients have raised privacy concerns about e-prescribing, although experts maintain that "such concerns are no greater than with paper prescriptions," the Post reports (Goldfarb, Washington Post, 12/10).