Healthcare IT leaders kick off government's e-prescribing drive

With the first phase of Medicare's mandate for e-prescribing rolling out in January, healthcare IT leaders, led by Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, gathered Tuesday in Boston to jumpstart the initiative.

"One of the beauties of the system is that it will reduce the number of medical mistakes ... and tragic results," Leavitt said at the National E-prescribing Conference. "We know it saves lives, we know it saves money, and it's time to implement it."

Leavitt tied the nation's current economic crisis to the rising costs of healthcare and noted that going electronic with prescriptions helps provide cost-savings for patients, doctors and the entire healthcare system.

"It's an economic imperative in this country," he said.

In January, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will begin its five-year program providing incentive payments to eligible professionals who adopt e-prescribing. The payments will be equal to 2 percent of the physicians' Medicare-allowed charges.

The program includes penalties for those who do not make the switch from paper - 1 percent of their Medicare-allowed charges beginning in 2012 and 2 percent beginning in 2014.

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