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Medicare Helping to Eliminate Medical Errors

Fortunately, I have never taken the wrong medicine because my pharmacist couldn’t make out my doctor’s handwriting or for any other reason. But it happens. Mistakes like taking morphine instead of a mild sedative could be fatal. According to the Institute of Medicine more than 1.5 million Americans are harmed every year by drug mistakes.

An answer to deciphering doctor’s messy handwriting is paperless prescriptions. Paperless prescriptions fit right-in with President-elect Barack Obama’s health reform plans. Paperless prescriptions along with total computerized hospital records will help to eliminate medical mishaps and wasted care. E-prescribing will let physicians and medical providers know exactly what their patients’ medical history is. Ultimately technological advance in healthcare could save millions of dollars a year, $156 million over a 5-year span.

This time last year about 35,000 doctors were writing paperless prescriptions, using e-prescribe. While, the 2008 numbers are still pending, it is expected that the number of doctors using e-prescribe will double. To sweeten the pot in encouraging doctors to use e-prescribe Medicare, beginning in January, will give doctors a pay bonus when they use e-prescribe.

Back in July Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) came up with a new program to be included in the new Medicare law. The program would provide a 2% increase in Medicare payments to physicians who use e-prescribing technology to deliver medication prescriptions to pharmacies.

Through the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 Medicare is also offering physicians a bonus for their participation in the Physician Quality Report Initiative (PQRI). Physicians who participate in PQRI would qualify for a 2% payment increase in addition to the already 1.1% payment increase for all physicians in 2009.

The 2009 PQRI consists of 153 quality measures and 7 measures groups. This is up from 119 quality measures and 4 measures groups. Physician’s who participate in both e-prescribing and PQRI would receive a 5.1% bonus from Medicare.

In addition, Medicare is increasing payments to outpatient departments by 3.6%; they are expected to make payments of $3.9 billion to 5100 ambulatory surgery centers. In order to receive the payments centers have to meet certain conditions such as how they assess their patients’ conditions to ensure surgery is safe and necessary in an ambulatory setting.

Medicare is doing their part to help reform healthcare by decreasing medical errors, increasing patient safety and quality of care.


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