E-prescribing effort turns to e-media for faster results

The peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has decided to scoop itself, posting an online version of an article called “E-Prescribing: Why the Fuss?” months before it is scheduled to appeared in the organization’s print edition.

The publication, Family Practice Management, has rarely taken that step, said Dr. Jason Mitchell, assistant director of AAFP’s Center for Health Information Technology. But with new Medicare incentives set to go into effect in January, “we want our members to be able to take advantage of that opportunity and we certainly want to help encourage them to do that,” he said.

The association recently embarked on an education campaign for its members that includes Internet discussion groups and the creation of a Flash presentation on e-prescribing. “Releasing this article online provided us with a little bit different way to push significant information out to our members,” Mitchell said.

The article, by Dr. Kenneth Adler, a family practitioner in Tucson, Ariz., provides a detailed overview of e-prescribing, including its costs, challenges and benefits, and the workings of SureScripts, the e-prescribing information exchange. It also features a list of questions that providers should ask before investing in a system.

Mitchell said AAFP has been promoting the adoption of electronic health records and medical management systems since creating its Center for Health IT in 2003. The effort has had positive results, with 50 percent of AAFP members now using some type of EHR system. “We see e-prescribing as part of all that, but it’s not been a primary push before now,” he said.

Beginning in January, providers who use a qualified e-prescribing system will be eligible to receive an incentive payment equal to 2 percent of their Medicare-allowed charges. Those who don’t use e-prescribing will be penalized 1 percent of their Medicare-allowed charges beginning in 2012 and 2 percent beginning in 2014.

Mitchell said family physicians face unique challenges in making the move to e-prescribing. For instance, the major pharmacy chains created SureScripts, a standard medium for sending electronic prescriptions, but many family physicians practice in rural areas with independent pharmacies that aren’t part of the SureScripts network. Those physicians are also less likely than their urban counterparts to have access to a fast, reliable Internet connection.

Still, AAFP officials believe the Medicare incentives are enough to tip the balance for providers who want to adopt e-prescribing, especially because the Medicare incentives could easily cover the cost of a system.

“In our last survey, only 18 percent of the members we talked to said that they weren’t going to move to an EHR, so using that as a guide, I’d say that we would expect about 80 percent of our members to be able to make use of this incentive,” Mitchell said.

About the Author

Heather Hayes is a freelance writer based in Clifford, Va.

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