NCPA gives testimony on benefits, adoption of e-prescribing

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The National Community Pharmacists Association provided written testimony on the experiences of independent pharmacies in accepting electronic prescribing from doctors at the Health Information Technology (HIT) Policy Committee Information Exchange Workgroup hearing.

NCPA said it submitted the written testimony Monday morning. Also testifying in person on behalf of independent pharmacies was Baeteena Black, D.Ph., executive director of the Tennessee Pharmacists Association and president of the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations.

Dr. Black, one of several health care experts and providers testifying, presented her comments on the first of three panels, titled "E-Prescribing Today: Adoption Successes & Challenges, Part 1," as well as provided real-life expertise and supported and expanded on the NCPA testimony.

"Community pharmacists have a vested interest in making e-prescribing work because it potentially provides more accurate and faster electronic transmittal to pharmacists of computerized prescription information than written prescriptions," NCPA executive vice president and chief executive officer Bruce Roberts said in a statement. "However, challenges remain in the adoption and implementation of this technology, which is why I hope our recommendations to the Information Workgroup and the HIT Policy Committee are ultimately embraced."

NCPA noted in the testimony that, along with the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, it formed Surescripts, the nation’s largest e-prescribing network. While the volume of electronic messaging has risen from 120 million to 800 million over the last three years, Surescripts reports that only 60% of independent pharmacies are set up to be able to accept e-prescriptions.

In the testimony, NCPA outlined the benefits of e-prescribing for pharmacists and pointed out problems that need correcting.

"Successes include generally positive patient acceptance and improvement in work flow for pharmacists — though calling back prescribers to verify or correct incomplete information on electronic prescriptions can sometimes be time-intensive and negate the original intent of e-prescribing," the testimony stated. "We believe that the independent pharmacy community stands ready to work with HHS, DEA, physician groups and others to address the successes and challenges outlined in this statement so that we can all accelerate the development of a robust system of e-prescribing."

NCPA added that other e-prescribing challenges include installation and transaction costs, the expenses associated with training staff and having to call back physicians regarding incomplete information on prescriptions, system compatibility and the need to have two-way communication with prescribers.

"The reality is that some pharmacists and pharmacies — particularly independent ones — are facing significant cost challenges in implementing e-prescribing," the testimony read. "Actions taken by federal and state authorities should reflect those requirements and incentives that will firmly encourage the implementation of an effective, robust system of e-prescribing. While independent community pharmacists support the growth and development of e-prescribing, the critical challenge — and key to its improved success — is to grow it responsibly."

NCPA offered several remedies to spur the acceptance and use of e-prescribing, including the following:

• Providing grants and creating incentives to offset implementation and transaction fee costs, especially considering that most of the current financial incentives are targeted only at doctors.

• Changing the communication system for e-prescribing, which is designed to enable physicians to communicate prescriptions to pharmacists but doesn’t allow pharmacists to communicate back to physicians. As a result, if problems arise, the pharmacists have to find other time-consuming ways to clarify matters — which is why a two-way communications system should be created.

• Strengthening the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) e-prescribing participation requirements for incentives to encourage greater participation from pharmacists.


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