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NACDS President and C.E.O. Addresses House Subcommittee on E-prescribing Technology

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - Craig Fuller, president and c.e.o. of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS), testified late last week before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health regarding electronic prescribing technology.

Fuller praised Congress and the subcommittee for encouraging the adoption of electronic prescription connectivity through specific language in the Medicare Modernization Act, P.L. 107-183, and stressed the importance of continuing physician adoption and use of electronic prescribing systems.

"NACDS commends Congress for its foresight in pursuing electronic prescribing as a step toward establishing a national health information infrastructure," testified Fuller. "Increased electronic connectivity will help improve both the safety and efficiency of the prescribing process, as well as improve the quality of medication decisions."

Physicians' and pharmacists' adoption of paperless electronic prescribing is a safer and more efficient solution than current handwritten prescriptions and telephone communications, according to NACDS. Errors are more likely to occur at several points during the medication prescribing and delivery process of the existing paper prescription system. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices estimates that indecipherable or unclear prescriptions result in more than 150 million calls from pharmacists to doctors, asking for clarification.

The streamlined process that electronically creates and transmits prescriptions reduces the potential for failures in communications. The benefits of electronic prescribing also include better patient medication compliance, clearer prescription documentation and reliable authentication of prescribers.

Fuller noted that the report issued July 21 by Dr. David Brailer, the national coordinator for Health Information Technology, emphasizes the need to implement electronic prescribing as part of a comprehensive program to promote electronic medical records.

"Dr. Brailer's report provides concrete examples of how electronic prescribing can improve patient safety, and offers important suggestions to encourage the development and implementation of electronic prescription systems," said Fuller.

In 2001 NACDS and the National Community Pharmacists Associations, which represents independently owned pharmacies, launched SureScripts as a platform for encouraging the adoption of electronic prescription connectivity among physicians, pharmacists, and technology vendors.

Today SureScripts is the country's largest electronic prescription network. Pharmacies and pharmacy software vendors representing 66 percent of the retail pharmacies in the United States have certified, tested, and connected their applications to the SureScripts network. In addition, physician technology vendors representing over 50,000 physicians are connected to the SureScripts network.

"Industry collaboration is essential in continuing to foster the development of electronic prescribing to preserve the pharmacist's valuable role in promoting patient interests to ensure strong communications between pharmacies and physicians." said Fuller. "NACDS looks forward to the implementation of the provisions of MMA that will encourage further development of polices, standards, and infrastructure that will make electronic prescribing a reality."

According to John Coster, NACDS' v.p., policy and programs, the adoption of e-prescription technology is right on track. "The future is bright, but it's going to take a little work on everyone's behalf," he told Progressive Grocer, noting that Medicare's pending requirement of electronically transmitted prescriptions (due to be instituted by 2009, but in reality likely to happen sooner) is helping to effect change. One key issue in moving to a "paperless system," he added, is convincing physicians of the new technology's cost-effectiveness. NACDS' next hurdle, Coster said, is the adoption or development of standards for workflow and technology systems.
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