E-prescribing standards update is recommended

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The Health and Human Services Department is being urged to waste no time in updating the e-prescribing standards that take effect Jan. 1.

The National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics (NCVHS), an official HHS advisory panel, has recommended that the department allow physicians to use the newer Script Standard Implementation Guide Version 8.1, instead of Script 5.0.

The Script standards for sending prescriptions to pharmacies have been developed by the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs. Script 8.1, which has been approved by the American National Standards Institute, was published in October.

In a Dec. 20 letter to HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt, Simon Cohn, committee chairman, wrote “Script 8.1 contains slightly more functionality than Script 5.0 but does not incorporate significant changes from Script 5.0.” The newer version also is backward compatible with the 5.0 version, according to the letter.

Both versions of the Script standard would be compliant with the HHS standards if the department follows the NCVHS recommendation.

NCVHS recommended that the department use an accelerated rulemaking process “because time is of the essence for permitting the industry to implement Script 8.1.” The final e-prescribing standards were issued in October and published in the Nov. 7 Federal Register as a prelude to the Jan. 1 start of the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit.

The regulations do not require doctors, pharmacies or insurers to use e-prescribing, but those who do use it for Part D-covered prescriptions must conform to the standards.

Although the committee advises the HHS secretary, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, an HHS agency, issues the Medicare standards.


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