FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Contact: HHS Press Office
HHS Takes New Steps to Bring Health Information Technology to Americans
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced today that the department, through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), is proposing rules to adopt new standards to advance the use of electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) for formulary and benefit as well as medication history transactions used under the Medicare prescription drug benefit.
The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 requires CMS to adopt final standards for e-prescribing. All providers and pharmacies transmitting prescriptions electronically for Medicare-covered drugs are required to comply with any CMS standards in effect.
“Providers need to know up front which drugs have been prescribed previously for their patients, and which drugs could have harmful interactions. The use of these standards for e-prescribing will bring us much closer to a connected system of health care that will deliver safer, more convenient care at lower cost to all Americans,” Secretary Leavitt said.
According to published reports, some 530,000 adverse drug events take place among Medicare beneficiaries each year because of drugs negatively interacting with other drugs the patient is already taking, or insufficient information about the patient and their medications. Information provided via the medication history transaction can help reduce the number of these adverse drug events. Additionally, the formulary and benefit transaction can provide prescribers with data about which drugs are covered by a Medicare beneficiary’s prescription drug benefit plan, and indicate which generic prescription drugs might offer lower-cost options for a particular patient.
“E-prescribing can improve quality of care by reducing errors, and can also help save the Medicare program money and the beneficiary from paying higher out-of-pocket costs,” CMS Acting Administrator Kerry Weems said. “Developing the standards that will facilitate e-prescribing is one of the key action items in the federal government’s effort to build a nationwide, interoperable electronic health information infrastructure in the United States.”
At a meeting today of the American Health Information Community (AHIC), Secretary Leavitt and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin J. Martin announced another initiative to further facilitate the development of a connected system for health information exchange. In coordination with HHS, the FCC will deploy broadband access in rural and urban areas with a particular focus on reaching health care providers.
“Adoption of health IT will not be possible in communities that do not have access to broadband connectivity. I applaud the work of the FCC in supporting the President’s goal of most Americans having access to interoperable electronic health records by 2014, by making sure that every community has the hardwiring needed to support it,” Secretary Leavitt said.
“The Rural Health Care Pilot Program will facilitate connecting health care facilities across the nation to one another and bring the latest health information technology to Rural America,” Chairman Martin said. “Broadband telemedicine programs can reduce costs and travel time for patients, help decrease medical errors, and enable health care providers to quickly share critical patient-care information electronically. We look forward to working with Secretary Leavitt, HHS and the health care community to advance initiatives that improve access to health care for patients throughout the nation and support the development of a system for interoperable electronic health records.”
Today’s announcements follow of other major announcements over the past two weeks:
- On Oct. 30, CMS announced a new demonstration project aimed at helping small- to- midsize physician practices adopt electronic health record (EHRs) to improve quality for patients. More information about this five-year Medicare demonstration program is available at: http://www.cms.hhs.gov/DemoProjectsEvalRpts/MD/itemdetail.asp?itemID=CMS1204776.
- Last week, the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT) released the first round of EHR products certified for hospitals. The CCHIT also expanded certification of outpatient ambulatory care EHRs. Certification is a key requirement for EHRs that will be used in the CMS demonstration project, and removes barriers to adoption of EHRs by both physicians and hospitals.
These initiatives build on ongoing activities within the department.
Secretary Leavitt said that he expects to recognize the first set of interoperability standards supporting health information exchange this year. These standards will be incorporated into the federal procurement process and will become part of future certification criteria.
The Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) trial implementations will also expand to include the federal government. The 26 agency federal consortium, including the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, will be managed by the Federal Health Architecture (FHA) e-gov initiative.
CMS’ new proposed rules on e-prescribing (CMS-0016-P) are available online at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/EPrescribing/.
The FCC press release on the broadband initiative is available here: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-278125A1.doc.
More details on HHS’ health IT initiative are available at http://www.hhs.gov/healthit.
Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.
Last revised: January 20, 2009