CMS to bar computer-faxing of scripts

July 13, 2007

Since January 2006, physicians who prescribe electronically for Medicare patients have been required to use the same standard for sending scripts online to pharmacies that SureScripts uses in its electronic network.

Since January 2006, physicians who prescribe electronically for Medicare patients have been required to use the same standard for sending scripts online to pharmacies that SureScripts uses in its electronic network. But despite the spread of pharmacy interoperability, the majority of e-prescribing doctors still computer-fax their scripts to pharmacies.

Now, in an effort to force practices to go online with pharmacies, CMS has moved to bar physicians from faxing prescriptions for Medicare patients. It has proposed that physicians either send their scripts online, using the mandated standard, or go back to paper prescribing. If this provision is included in the final rule, it will go into effect Jan. 1, 2008.

Naturally, SureScripts is delighted. "The sooner we take action, the sooner we will establish a safer, more cost effective, more automated process for providing prescriptions to millions of patients across the nation," said SureScripts CEO Kevin Hutchinson in a statement.

However, though most pharmacies are technically capable of going online with doctors, only two-thirds of them are operationally ready today, and fewer are outside major metropolitan areas. Moreover, only about half of EHRs have the functionality required to send scripts online. So it remains to be seen how practical this will be for physicians.