Leavitt: 'It saves lives. It saves money. And it's time.'
WASHINGTON, Feb. 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In another sign of the growing momentum for electronic prescribing (e-prescribing), Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Mike Leavitt testified today before the Senate Finance Committee that e-prescribing standards and technology are in place and that "it's time" to adopt the technology in Medicare.
When questioned by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) on the adoption of e-prescribing in Medicare, Secretary Leavitt said: "It saves lives. It saves money. And it's time."
"PCMA applauds Secretary Leavitt's continued leadership in advocating for adopting e-prescribing in Medicare," said The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) President and CEO Mark Merritt. "This bipartisan issue is generating support from policymakers who want to improve health care quality and lower costs."
In December, the bipartisan "Medicare Electronic Medication and Safety Protection (E-MEDS) Act of 2007" that would require e-prescribing in Medicare was introduced by Senate Finance Committee Members Kerry and John Ensign, (R-Nev.). Companion legislation was introduced in the House by Representatives Allyson Schwartz, (D-Penn.) and Jon Porter, (R-Nev.). Both bills are supported by a broad coalition of consumers, unions, businesses, purchaser groups, and other prescription drug stakeholders.
E-prescribing improves safety by alerting a doctor when a drug about to be prescribed could dangerously interact with other medications that a patient is already taking. E-prescribing also eliminates medication errors that result from sloppy handwritten prescriptions that are illegible at the pharmacy counter.
Last year, PCMA launched an ad campaign featuring Institute of Medicine (IOM) expert panelist J. Lyle Bootman that called on policymakers to require e-prescribing in Medicare "before more people die." Dr. Bootman co-chaired an IOM committee that recommended that all physicians begin using e-prescribing by 2010 to help reduce the estimated 1.5 million preventable medication errors that occur in the United States annually. According to the IOM, each year some 7,000 people die from medication errors. Unfortunately, fewer than one-in-ten physicians currently use life-saving e-prescribing technology.
In an op-ed published today, Secretary Leavitt stated:
"Our progress is moving fast enough that it is time to make another important step: linking e-prescribing to Medicare reimbursements. I have proposed to Congress that when they deal with reimbursements for doctors in June, they require doctors to use e-prescribing in order to get the highest rates of compensation."
The complete exchange between Senator Kerry and Secretary Leavitt is below:
Senate Finance Committee
February 6, 2008
Sen. Kerry: We have a bill, a bipartisan bill that we put in, which would require physicians to adopt e-prescription and ask in return that every physician in Medicare adopt this practice by 2011. Every independent analysis indicates this saves lives. It saves money, and Medicare spending will be curbed if it is passed. And I think it should be passed and passed quickly. Do you agree with that? Do you agree with the judgment that it saves lives? It prevents errors, and that Medicare ought to adopt this rapidly?
Sec. Leavitt: It saves lives. It saves money. And it's time. Two years ago, I don't believe I could have said we're ready. But we now have succeeded in developing technology and having standards. This is the moment we need to begin to create that expectation that if you're going to be reimbursed at the highest rate, you need to provide it to us in the most efficient and safe way.