CMS e-prescribing policy will hurt IT adoption, say medical societies

January 27, 2011

The American Medical Association (AMA) and 103 state and specialty medical societies urged the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to revise the Medicare e-prescribing penalty policy in a letter sent to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. This policy, which would penalize physicians next year if they don?t use e-prescribing in the first 6 months of this year, will hurt efforts to implement widespread health information technology (IT) adoption among physician practices and cause them to take on needless financial and administrative burdens, according to the organizations.

The American Medical Association (AMA) and 103 state and specialty medical societies urged the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to revise the Medicare e-prescribing penalty policy in a letter sent to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. This policy, which would penalize physicians next year if they don’t use e-prescribing in the first 6 months of this year, will hurt efforts to implement widespread health information technology (IT) adoption among physician practices and cause them to take on needless financial and administrative burdens, according to the organizations.

“The last-minute decision to require e-prescribing in 2011 will force physicians to spend additional financial and administrative resources to purchase e-prescribing software that most of them will end up discarding when they transition to a complete electronic health record (EHR) system,” says Steven J. Stack, MD, AMA board secretary.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has said that physicians cannot receive incentives from both the Medicare e-prescribing incentive program and the Medicare EHR incentive program simultaneously. If physicians choose not to participate in the e-prescribing program this year, however, they will face penalties in 2012 and 2013. Not aligning these programs ultimately will delay physicians’ efforts to adopt complete EHR systems, contend the medical societies.

“This unreasonable policy leaves many physicians with little choice but to purchase and use a stand-alone e-prescribing program during the initial months of 2011 just to avoid penalties,” says Stack. “HHS must take action now to align the e-prescribing and EHR incentive programs . . . to alleviate confusion and reduce financial and administrative burdens on physician practices working to adopt health IT.”