COMMENTARY

E-Prescribe by January -- Here's How

Donald M. Berwick, MD, MPP

Disclosures

June 09, 2011

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Hi. I'm Don Berwick, a pediatrician, and the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

At CMS, we're committed to supporting you -- the physicians, nurses, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants -- and to supporting the relationship you have with the patient. We want you to have the tools to achieve better health and better care for patients.

Electronic prescribing is one of these tools. If implemented well, this will save you from having to spend time on the phone verifying a prescription. You can spend more time with a patient. E-prescribing will give you better access to a patient's prescribing history, reducing their risk for a drug interaction.

Last November, we set up a new program to support and encourage adoption of e-prescribing. Offices that don't have this capability now will receive financial incentives beginning in 2012 to help with the cost of putting in the right system.

Because we are serious about Medicare providers upgrading their practices, we also set a nominal Medicare payment adjustment downward for providers who do not take part. Our aim, of course, is that no physicians need to face those adjustments.

We have been listening to you, and we know it's not easy. Adopting e-prescribing is a change, and change -- even good change -- can be hard. Many of you wrote in to tell us that there are valid reasons why setting up an e-prescribing system could be a hardship. So we've issued proposed regulations that would make it easier for providers to claim a hardship exemption, and to deem providers who use certified electronic health record technology acceptable as e-prescribers under the rules.

Let's make progress. Please take the time to help us make e-prescribing everyday business in every medical office. Once over the threshold of adoption, I know from my own personal experience in practice that you'll find your work more satisfying and reliable. And your patients will be better off, too, with safer, easier, and more reliable medications.

You can view our proposed rule in full at regulations.gov -- and if you have thoughts, you can share those during the comment period through the Website. And if you don't have the capacity to e-prescribe now, go to www.cms.gov/erxincentive to find out what you need to do to be on-line and prescribing by January 1, 2012.

We're committed to bringing our healthcare system into the 21st century and doing so in a partnership with providers. Our new regulations will give you more flexibility as we work toward achieving this aim.

Thank you.

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