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Report issued to Congress on electronic prescribing to cut errors and costs

A report released to Congress reveals the results of an electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) pilot project that supports the adoption of new e-prescribing standards. These standards, required by the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, would help cut both medication errors and health care costs.

The pilot project demonstrated that three initial standards are already capable of supporting e-prescribing transactions in Medicare Part D. These are standard transactions that provide physicians with patients' formulary and benefit information, medication history, and the fill status of their medications. The report also found that, with some adjustments, e-prescribing can work successfully in long-term care settings.

Some of the initial e-prescribing standards tested by the pilot project were found to have potential but still need further development if they are to be adopted as e-prescribing standards. These include standards used to convey structured patient instructions, a terminology to describe clinical drugs, and messages that convey prior authorization information.

The pilot project, conducted through an interagency agreement between the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), selected five pilot sites operating in eight States to test initial standards to determine if they were ready for widespread adoption. Those pilot sites were Achieve Healthcare Information Technologies, LLP; Brigham and Women's Hospital; Rand Corporation; SureScripts, LLC; and University Hospitals Health System.

Copies of the report to Congress and the full evaluation contractor's report are available on the AHRQ Health Information Technology (IT) Web site at http://healthit.ahrq.gov/erxpilots.

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