Physicians who have shied away from the use of e-prescriptions because of cost and quality concerns could see both obstacles lessened if legislation introduced by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and backed by several other current and former lawmakers gains traction this year.
"Deaths and injuries from hand-written prescriptions could be nearly eliminated if e-prescriptions were adopted on a wide scale," Kerry said.
The bill, introduced yesterday and co-sponsored by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), would provide a one-time incentive payment of up to $2,000 and a bonus structure where doctors would be paid an extra 1% bonus for each Medicare prescription that is written electronically while penalizing those who don't after 2011.
Additionally, the bill would allow HHS to grant hardship waivers for physicians who face particularly thorny implementation problems, like those in small or solo practices or those in rural areas. The Congressional Budget Office has yet to release a price tag for the legislative package.
The Institute of Medicine has conservatively estimated that more than 1.5 million preventable adverse drug events occur every year in the U.S., with more than half of them happening to Medicare beneficiaries. Studies have shown that drug errors cost the federal government more than $887 million per year.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, founder of the Center for Health Transformation and a longtime champion of using information technology to improve the quality of care patients receive both in and out of hospitals, said e-prescribing "saves lives and saves moneyin that order."
The bill also gained the endorsement of the Consumers Union and the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association.
"This could be the greatest patient-safety achievement in a generation, and it would also save Medicare billions of dollars," Mark Merritt, president and chief executive officer of the PCMA, said in a written statement.