The U.S. Health and Human Services Department has proposed federal e-prescribing standards to be used for Medicare participating physicians, pharmacists, and software vendors.
The proposal was issued last month; comments are being accepted through mid-January.
E-prescribing is not required for participation in the Medicare Part D drug benefit.
But under the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003—the law that established the benefit—drug plans, physicians, and pharmacists who use electronic prescribing are required to meet the HHS standards.
Some organizations have pushed for required e-prescribing for Medicare participation.
The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA), which represents pharmacy benefit managers, is spearheading the effort. The organization launched a print and broadcast ad campaign in November that called for adoption of e-prescribing by 2010—the same deadline set by the Institute of Medicine in a report on reducing adverse drug reactions that was issued in July 2006.
The American Health Information Community has also urged the HHS to require e-prescribing for Medicare.
The American Medical Association and other groups oppose a mandate.
“From a practical side, a mandate would be premature,” Stacey Swartz, Pharm.D., senior director of pharmacy affairs at the National Community Pharmacists Association, said in an interview.
“We can see the benefits of it, but we can't ignore that there are costs involved,” she added.
The final e-prescribing standards are expected to be issued by April 1, 2008.