If Congress wants to mandate electronic prescribing for physicians, there needs to be industrywide standards in place first to support such a requirement, medical groups claim.
Robert Doherty, senior vice president for governmental affairs and public policy with the American College of Physicians, said that lawmakers should start off with incentives to get physicians to acquire these systems before issuing a requirement. Theres a great deal of concern about imposing huge punitive measures on doctors who dont adopt these systems, Doherty said.
If theres going to be some kind of mandate, carrots work better than sticks, he added.
Last week, a large coalition of industry groups sent a letter to healthcare leaders on Capitol Hill, urging them to adopt a bill that would require e-prescribing in Medicare. Staff for Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said the chairman has been working with colleagues to see if e-prescribing provisions could be included in a larger Medicare package, which may be considered by the full Senate in June.
The problem is theres no consistent set of standards on what a good e-prescribing system should look like, Doherty said. In addition, not all pharmacies accept e-prescribing systems from doctors offices.
James King, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said very few of his members have adopted an e-prescribing tool, either because its just too difficult, or the local pharmacies cant do e-prescribing yet.
The American Medical Association said it would support a national framework for e-prescribing that would include a uniform set of standards and a transitional period for physicians to adopt the technology.
However, any e-prescribing mandate that triggers potential penalties should be deferred until two years after final standards are in place, AMA board member Steven Stack said during a meeting with stakeholders at the Brookings Institution in Washington. This will allow physicians to acquire and implement e-prescribing tools and train their staff. -- by Jennifer Lubell