months ahead of the deadline set by the Medicare Modernization
Act, new Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt
announced Jan. 27 that proposed rules should have major
electronic prescribing standards in place by the time Part
D rolls out in January 2006.
technology, which transmits prescriptions electronically
to the patient's pharmacy, would allow providers instant
access to a patient's eligibility and medication history.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says e-prescribing
would cut health costs and improve care by eliminating hard-to-read
physician handwriting and by automating drug interaction
and allergy checks.
the reform bill requires participating drug plans to support
e-prescribing, the bill doesn't require physicians and pharmacies
to use the technology. Secretary Leavitt predicted that
firm guidance on how to communicate and interpret health
data would "make e-prescribing more attractive."
The proposed regulations would standardize transactions
between physicians and pharmacies on new prescriptions,
refills, changes and cancellations. They also set standards
for physician inquiries about patients' eligibility and
coverage under prescription drug plans and Medicare's new
prescription benefit. And they set out protocols for physicians
to obtain information about formularies and benefits.