PHARMACY

American Consultants Rx donates discount Rx cards to non-profits

BY Alaric DeArment

ATLANTA American Consultants Rx has re-launched a community service project that involves donating millions of discount prescription cards to non-profit organizations, hospitals, schools, churches and others.

President Charles Myrick announced the plan Wednesday. American Consultants Rx said it was an effort to assist the uninsured, underinsured and elderly people in dealing with the high cost of prescription drugs.

The cards are accepted at more than 50,000 stores, including such nationwide chains as Walgreens, Kmart and Walmart.

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House Dems launch new push for widespread adoption of health IT

BY Jim Frederick

WASHINGTON U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel has introduced legislation to spur the widespread and rapid adoption of health information technology and electronic patient recordkeeping as part of the economic stimulus package.

Rangel, the New York Democrat who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, is calling for the release of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds to advance HIT, according to a report from The Hill, a Washington-based newspaper. A separate report from The Wall Street Journal pegs the total long-term cost of HIT adoption at $20 billion.

One key element of the Rangel bill: incentive payments from Medicare totaling $41,000 over five years for private-practice and nonhospital physicians who speedily adopt electronic health recordkeeping technology, and additional Medicare incentives for hospitals that embrace the technology.

The bill also would beef up patient-privacy provisions beyond current HIPAA standards, a proposal that has raised concerns among pharmacy operators who assert that it would hamper current pharmacy practices and patient relationships.

In response to the House bill, National Association of Chain Drug Stores President and CEO Steve Anderson,  sent a letter (click here to read entire letter http://www.nacds.org/user-assets/pdfs/newsrelease/2009/1_21_HITPrivacyLettertoHill.pdf ) to key Congressional leaders, commending lawmakers’ efforts to incorporate provisions for the adoption of health information technology (HIT) into the economic stimulus proposal as a cost-savings solution and to help promote better public health, but expressed serious concerns over certain privacy provisions that would in effect expand HIPPA regulations.

“We have strong concerns that this legislation unfairly penalizes providers who have already adopted health information technology (HIT) by requiring new, costly and operationally burdensome mandates that stand to interfere with patient care activities,” Anderson wrote in the letter. “Many of the proposed provisions will not stimulate economic activity in the health sector, and could serve as a disincentive to provider adoption of HIT.” 

Noting its ultimate support for the development of an integrated healthcare IT infrastructure — in particular, its early adoption of electronic prescribing technology — NACDS urged lawmakers to take a more cautious, and studied approach to HIT, and certainly not to rush ahead to make it part of the current stimulus package. “We believe these complex privacy issues must be fully aired through hearings and discussion that legislating through regular order would provide,” Anderson stated. “Consensus has yet to be reached among all relevant stakeholders on how best to address these complex privacy issues. We strongly believe it would be premature for Congress to legislate in this area that remains highly contentious.”

The legislation introduced in the Ways & Means Committee includes, among other provisions, $250 million for an agency set up to coordinate national HIT rollout and standards, according to The Hill. That agency, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, would become a permanent fixture within the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, with expanded authority, and would include a federal officer to oversee patient-privacy issues.

The Rangel bill also would provide $300 million to support electronic data exchange technology, grants to states to promote HIT and $900 million for Medicare and Medicaid to fund the physician incentive program.

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OmniMD certified by SureScripts for electronic prescribing

BY Alaric DeArment

New York A company that develops Internet applications for electronic medical records, enterprise health care and practice management announced Wednesday its certification by SureScripts.

Omni MD’s said its certification by SureScripts, which operates the Pharmacy Health Information Exchange, would allow for interoperability with the country’s pharmacies and improve the safety and efficiency of the prescribing process and quality of patient care. Physicians using Omni MD’s EMR application can connect directly with local pharmacies connected to the Pharmacy Health Information Exchange.Government health officials said earlier this week that starting this year, healthcare providers will be able to earn extra money from Medicare if they use electronic prescribing systems.”We are dedicated to providing solutions that improve the efficiency of medical practices and the quality of patient care,” Omni MD chief CEO Divan Dave said in a statement. “Omni MD’s Prescription Writer already has a functionality to check for drug interactions, print patient medication sheets, create favorite prescriptions and check prescription coverage at the point of care.” 

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