Five doctors organizations have launched a Web site and campaign designed to persuade physicians to switch from paper-based prescriptions of medications to electronic prescribing.
The Get Connected campaign, along with the GetRxConnected.com web site, are focused on helping doctors move from prescriptions written on paper pads or entered into a computer and faxed to pharmacies. The Web site, launched Tuesday, includes a technology guide to help doctors move to e-prescribing. It also provides perspectives of other doctors on the benefits of e-prescribing, and points to connected pharmacies. The effort, with support from such groups as the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics, is aimed at the 94 percent of doctors in the U.S. who still do not write prescriptions electronically, said Dr. William Jessee, president and CEO of the Medical Group Management Association. In many cases, doctors who are entering prescription data into an electronic health record are then faxing those prescriptions to pharmacies, where the data has to be re-entered into a computer, Jessee said during an event called the Safe-Rx Awards in Washington, D.C. Re-entering the data increases the risk that a prescription error will occur, he said. About 150,000 doctors across the U.S. now fax prescriptions, but as of Jan. 1, 2009, the U.S. government Medicare program will require that prescriptions it covers be sent electronically, Jessee said. “We need to pick up the pace,” he said. Backers of electronic prescribing say it can save lives and reduce medical errors. About 8,000 people in the U.S. die every year because of prescription errors, said Newt Gingrich, founder of the Center for Health Transformation and former Republican speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Some doctors are still fighting the move to e-prescribing and suggesting the U.S. government shouldn’t mandate the change, he said. “Their argument is, ‘I reserve the right to issue paper prescriptions and kill people,'” Gingrich said at the awards event. “‘It’s wrong for you to require me to be safe’.” Gingrich praised legislation introduced by Democratic Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts that would provide grants to doctors to defray the costs of e-prescribing software and other tools. The E-Meds bill would also increase payments to doctors who switch to e-prescribing. Gingrich predicted Congress would pass the Kerry bill sometime this year. The bill could save the government billions of dollars in health-care costs, he said. The time has come for doctors to embrace new technology, Kerry added. “For years, we’ve been writing prescriptions with a 5,000-year-old technology — pen and paper,” he said. “[People] don’t understand that pharmacists spend the better part of the day on the telephone, calling back to the doctor’s office in order to clarify the hand-written report that they’ve gotten.”