Leavitt calls on Medicare, Medicaid to require e-prescribing

Health and Human Services Department Secretary Mike Leavitt urged large health care providers, including Medicare and Medicaid, to begin making electronic prescribing a requirement of their practices.

In a posting to his personal blog Nov. 16, Leavitt said the groundwork had been laid for e-prescribing, including creating standards and blocking the faxing of prescriptions, but that more action was necessary.

“We need to do more, I think, including using our power as a payer to motivate the change,” he wrote.

Leavitt said “large health care providers, including Medicare and Medicaid, need to move toward making it a mandatory part of medical practice soon.”

“E-prescribing needs faster implementation,” Leavitt wrote. “We have been through all the public processes necessary to develop standards. The technology is readily available and widely distributed. Electronic prescribing will enhance the safety and convenience for patients.”

Leavitt made his comments after a meeting of the American Health Information Community last week. At the Chicago meeting, AHIC members agreed to draft a recommendation to the secretary on making e-prescribing mandatory for Medicare. Leavitt is chairman of AHIC.

AHIC’s move followed an announcement that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had released formulary and medication history standards designed to improve prescription accuracy.

Leavitt compared the slow movement toward e-prescribing to efforts to get Utah state police to start using laptop PCs in their patrol cars when he was governor. After a series of stops and starts, including many officers’ inability to use keyboards, Leavitt mandated their use.

“Ultimately, I had to say, ‘Look, we are at a point where we can’t afford to have people on the highway patrol who can’t type. If you want to work here, you need to develop the skill to fill your reports out efficiently using a computer. We’ll help you learn, but this is now a requirement of your job.' The patrolmen that didn’t have the skills developed them and the system functions well."

About the Author

Paul McCloskey is senior editor of GCN. A former editor-in-chief of both GCN and FCW, McCloskey was part of Federal Computer Week's founding editorial staff.

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