MONTPELIER, Vt., Oct. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- More Vermont physicians will be using electronic prescribing and other health information technology to improve patient care, under a $1 million federal grant secured by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy. The funds announced by Leahy and Vermont Information Technology Leaders, Inc. (VITL), will provide incentives to physicians and independent pharmacies to adopt health information technology.
In June, Vermont was cited by Surescripts as the most improved state for electronic prescribing. The funds secured by Leahy - a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee -- from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will be used to boost the electronic prescribing rate even higher, as VITL will provide electronic prescribing technology and technical assistance to physicians statewide. VITL will also provide technical assistance and financial incentives to Vermont independent retail pharmacies to join the Surescripts national e-prescription network.
"Sending prescriptions to pharmacies electronically is an important advance in patient safety," said Sen. Leahy. "Physicians using electronic prescribing technology are alerted to potential allergies and drug interactions. When the electronic prescription is received at the pharmacy, pharmacists no longer have to decipher physician handwriting. There is much less chance of errors being made."
"Electronic prescribing improves patient care, as prescribers have instant access to the patient's medication history and allergy list no matter where they are," said David Cochran, M.D., VITL's president and CEO. "It is also a convenience that physicians can offer their patients, as the patient no longer has to carry a paper prescription to the pharmacy and prescriptions sent electronically are often ready when the patient arrives."
VITL is the state-funded provider of health information technology infrastructure for Vermont's Blueprint for Health, a groundbreaking initiative of the Vermont Department of Health to build a statewide chronic care information system. Formed by a broad base of providers, payers, employers, patients, and state agencies, VITL is a multi-stakeholder nonprofit corporation largely supported by the state's Health Information Technology Fund.
Paul Harrington, Executive Vice President of the Vermont Medical Society, said of the HRSA grant, "These funds will assist physicians in the adoption of e-prescribing technology, as well as help to ensure that all pharmacies in Vermont are able to accept prescriptions electronically. This grant demonstrates Senator Leahy's continued commitment to promoting the use of health information technology to improve our state's health care system for both physicians and their patients."
Electronic prescribing is an important step toward achieving President Obama's goal of having all medical records computerized within five years, Sen. Leahy said. "With this grant, VITL will be able to help physicians across Vermont begin the transition from paper to electronic health records," Leahy said. ``We expect that once physicians see how easy it is to use electronic prescribing, they'll want to take additional steps toward a full electronic medical record."
Beginning in 2011, Vermont physicians can qualify for between $44,000 and $64,000 in payments from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for adopting and demonstrating "meaningful use" of an Electronic Health Record (EHR). Electronic prescribing is a key component of any EHR, and the easiest process for physicians to automate as a first step toward fully electronic patient records.
Incentives already exist for physicians to prescribe electronically, as they can qualify for a two percent bonus from Medicare for using the technology, said Dr. Cochran. If a physician is not e-prescribing by 2012, moreover, Medicare will begin reducing its payments to the physician. "It is VITL's goal to help as many Vermont physicians as possible qualify for the Medicare bonus payment, and avoid the reduced reimbursement in 2012," Dr. Cochran said.
According to the nonprofit Institute of Medicine, electronic prescribing is a key means of preventing the 1.5 million injuries and 7,000 deaths that are associated each year with preventable medication errors. The technology automates the process of writing prescriptions and transmitting them to pharmacies while alerting physicians to potentially dangerous drug-to-drug interactions, drug allergies, dosage errors and other problems that can occur when writing prescriptions on paper.
VITL will provide Vermont physicians and other licensed prescribers with free access to the Allscripts ePrescribe application and will provide training and technical support for prescribers using the application. Allscripts ePrescribe is used by tens of thousands of healthcare professionals nationwide to transmit millions of secure electronic prescriptions each year. The application can be accessed via a secure web browser or a handheld device, such as the Apple iPhone, Blackberry or Windows Mobile smart phones.
Anthony Williams, M.D., a Vermont physician who uses Allscripts ePrescribe, commented, "Many physicians have been reluctant to adopt electronic prescribing, mainly because old habits die hard and they're comfortable with the paper prescription pad. I was surprised at how easy the transition from paper to electronic prescriptions really was. It streamlines the prescription renewal process, which is much more efficient using this technology, and more importantly it improves the wellbeing of my patients by alerting me to any potentially harmful drug-to-drug interactions or other dangers before I write the prescription."
Glen Tullman, Chief Executive Officer of Allscripts, said, "With this grant, Vermont leaders including Sen. Leahy and VITL have again demonstrated their ability to develop a sustainable blueprint for healthcare IT adoption and to back up the vision with meaningful incentives. We are proud to have been selected by VITL to help Vermont's physicians take the first step on the electronic healthcare highway with electronic prescribing - a technology that enhances the quality and lowers the cost of healthcare for everyone."
Chicago-based Allscripts (Nasdaq: MDRX), the nation's No. 1 e-prescribing and Electronic Health Record provider for physician practices of all sizes, employs 170 people in its Burlington office. The company is hiring aggressively in Vermont to fulfill the demand for e-prescribing and Electronic Health Records (EHR) in the wake of the federal incentive program.
A portion of the HRSA grant will be used by VITL to help Vermont hospitals license technology to accept lab orders electronically from physicians. "VITL has been connecting Vermont's hospitals to the Vermont Health Information Exchange, so that lab test results and other data can be sent electronically to physicians. The HRSA grant will expand the services that VITL provides, making it easier for physicians to use their electronic medical records systems," Dr. Cochran said.
Vermont prescribers can learn more about VITL's electronic prescribing technology by visiting www.eprescribevt.org.
VITL is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, with a mission to collaborate with all stakeholders to expand the use of secure health information technology to improve the quality and efficiency of Vermont's health care system. VITL's vision is a transformed health care system where health information is secure and readily available when people need it, positioning Vermont as a national example of high quality, cost effective care. Learn more at http://www.vitl.net/ or call 877-592-4053.
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