Press release




The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced important initiatives to promote the adoption of electronic health records, nationwide electronic drug prescribing, and other health information technologies to improve the quality and reduce the costs of health care, and to provide more personalized services for beneficiaries.

“We are moving aggressively to bring our health care system into the modern world of information technology,” said Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D., CMS administrator.  “We are committed to using health information technology to improve health and health care not only for Medicare’s 41 million beneficiaries, but for all Americans.”

As part of this campaign CMS plans to introduce an Internet-based portal for people with Medicare to access their claims information, accelerate the e-prescribing timeline mandated by the Medicare Modernization Act of 2004 (MMA), and encourage the adoption of electronic health records (EHR) systems, particularly in physicians’ offices.

CMS will pilot test an Internet portal that will provide beneficiaries direct web access to their Medicare claims information, including claims type, dates of service, and procedures in a way that will protect their privacy and the security of their information.  By the end of the year, information on preventive services will be added.  The pilot test, to be conducted in Indiana, will begin this year and will provide CMS with valuable insight into how to effectively implement the program nationwide.

“This portal utilizes new information systems to bring useful health information right to our beneficiaries, so that they can get the facts they need to get the most out of Medicare,” McClellan said.  “And as with all of our new, personalized support, beneficiaries who don’t use the Internet can still benefit from our improved information systems by calling our consumer helpline at 1-800-MEDICARE.”

The electronic drug prescribing initiative will accelerate the nationwide adoption of e-prescribing in Medicare, which is expected to accelerate e-prescribing throughout the nation’s health care system.  The MMA provides that e-prescribing based on national standards be mandatory for drug plans participating in the new Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit by 2009, although CMS expects to require an initial set of well-established standards by January 2006 when the Medicare benefit begins.

CMS is also reviewing existing programs for e-prescribing nationwide, to identify the most promising features that can be adopted more widely in conjunction with the new drug benefit. Participation by physicians in e-prescribing will be optional, but established standards and steps to encourage effective programs will make e-prescribing more attractive.

E-prescribing can improve patient safety and reduce avoidable health care costs by reducing prescription errors due to hard-to-read physician handwriting and by automating the checking for drug interactions and allergies. E-prescribing can also help make sure that patients and health professionals have the best and latest medical information at hand when they make important decisions about medicines, helping patients get the most benefits at the lowest cost.

“Promoting the adoption of e-prescribing is an essential step toward improving the safety and quality of health care,” said Dr. McClellan.  “We intend to use the opportunity of implementing the new Medicare drug benefit to do all we can to help patients get the added benefits of e-prescribing.”

CMS also is taking steps to encourage the adoption and use of reliable, confidential electronic health records. CMS has joined a national alliance of purchasers and payers to work with them in their effort to create a common agenda for the promotion of HIT adoption.  Additionally, CMS will conduct demonstration programs to determine how financial incentives may encourage EHR adoption in physician offices, and the consequences for the quality and cost of health care.

E-Prescribing and the Prescription Drug Program Proposed Rule (PDF, 48KB)