Convenience Will Drive E-prescribing

The Medicare fee adjustment law passed a few weeks ago—the one that rescinded a scheduled 10.6 percent cut in doctors’ Medicare fees—also established a bonus for doctors who prescribe drugs electronically instead of using paper prescriptions and a penalty that will go as high as 2% by 2013 for physicians who stick with their paper-based prescriptions. (For more on this, go here.)

I am familiar with the many objections to e-prescribing that are typically raised by physicians, including the financial burden that these systems impose on physicians, DEA restrictions on some controlled substances, and the lack of standards for sending and receiving the scripts. Many physicians have also questioned the third parties pushing for adoption of e-prescribing, including vendors of the technology solutions and pharmacy benefit managers, among others.

As I see it, though, most if not all of these objections will be moot in the near future. The reasons are simple: real enhancements to patient safety that will soon be proven, and the incremental conveniences that will accrue from using e-prescribing. Several years ago, if you had told me that I would rely as heavily on e-mail as I do know, I’d have thought you were crazy. And while I still prefer face-to-face interactions whenever possible (I can often be overheard admonishing my staff not to “hide behind e-mail”), one cannot ignore the tremendous convenience that e-mail has added to all of our lives.

The same will be true for e-prescribing. Bonus payments will help speed adoption, and patient safety advances are paramount in the minds of all physicians. But I think that convenience for physicians will ultimately be the biggest driver. You may find that once you’ve gone the e-prescribing route, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it.

Mike Hennessy is Chairman and CEO of MJH & Associates. Click here for more Hennessy's Highlights