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Physicians to Get Bonus for Electronic Prescribing

Medicare will pay incentive to doctors who stop using handwritten prescriptions

WEDNESDAY, July 23 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors using an electronic prescriptions system will be eligible for a bonus from Medicare from 2009 onwards for four years, according to U.S. health officials.

Mike Leavitt, secretary of the U.S., Department of Health and Human Services, who made the announcement during a teleconference, said that after five years, physicians who do not use electronic prescribing will be reimbursed at lower rates than those who do, unless there are legitimate reasons for non-compliance. The incentives, a 2 percent bonus in addition to their fee in 2009 and 2010, and a 1 percent bonus in 2011 and 2012, should help doctors, especially those in small practices, to bear the costs of transition to e-prescribing. In 2013, the bonus will drop to 0.5 percent.

The additional costs of the program will be more than offset by the savings from drug errors due to illegible writing. Pharmacists should benefit as they currently make over 150 million phone calls to doctors to clarify information on illegible prescriptions, as will patients; 1.5 million patients are injured by drug errors every year, according to Leavitt.

"That's a lot of people needlessly hurt and a lot of time spent trying to sort out bad handwriting. E-prescribing will help deliver safer or more efficient care to patients," he said. "We expect this [bonus scheme] will have a profound effect on the adoption and use of e-prescribing."

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