Insurer payments won't cover true cost of e-prescribing

LETTER — Posted July 4, 2005

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Regarding "E-prescribing's hope: Pay-for-performance" (AMNews, June 13): It is stated in this article that pay-for-performance initiatives have been predicted to boost physician adoption of electronic prescribing.

As I see it, this is a terminology designed by insurance companies to make it sound like they are rewarding physicians for electronic prescribing. In reality, they are only partially compensating physicians for the lost productivity and revenue that result from electronic prescribing.

I can neatly print out a legible prescription in about 15 seconds and hand it to the patient. To electronically prescribe, it would take about two minutes to enter the patient demographics, 15 seconds per medication to enter the medicine information, 15 seconds to select the pharmacy for electronic transmission or 45 seconds to print out a copy, retrieve it from the printer, sign it and hand it to the patient. At an average 15-minute visit and a net loss of three minutes per visit, my productivity drops 15% to 20%. This of course does not include the infrastructure required for electronic prescribing, a cost that physicians are expected to bear.

Until the true costs of e-prescribing are addressed, physicians will remain reluctant to adopt it.

Ronald Hirsch, MD, Elgin, Ill.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2005/07/04/edlt0704.htm.

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