November 23, 2009

Tom Sullivan, M.D.

Pending ePrescribing Legislation In Massachusetts

Massachusetts, where I have been  living  for over 50 years (other than during some of my medical training), is generally at the front lines in the push for Healthcare Information Technology (healthcare IT) such as eprescribing. In fact, MA has been ranked number one for eprescribing in each of the past three years. But we have not stopped there. Below I have highlighted two pending eprescribing bills in the legislature which should further the adoption of eprescribing in MA if passed.

Bill 1: Mandating all pharmacies can accept eprescriptions.

House Bill No. 2067 introduced by Rep. Bradley H. Jones, Jr. on May 9, 2009, would mandate that all pharmacies in MA must be able to accept electronic prescriptions by January 1, 2012. To facilitate this transition, pharmacies may apply for the Massachusetts e-Health Institute for financial assistance of up to $2,000 for each eligible pharmacy.

If passed, Massachusetts would follow in the footsteps of Rhode Island, the first state  to reach 100 percent of its retail pharmacies capable of receiving  electronic prescriptions in the past few months.

Bill 2: Tax Breaks for the investment in eprescribing

House Bill No. 2807 introduced by Rep. Peter J. Koutoujian on July 8, 2009, would establish a tax credit for any business  involving licensed physicians that invests in e-prescribing technology. If passed, all incurred costs to implement eprescribing would be tax deductible, summarized in the bill as “installation of any technology and infrastructure necessary to adopt and utilize electronic prescribing capabilities thereby including the cost of labor attendant to the installation.”

Status of these Bills:

Both bills are “in committee.” House Bill No. 2067 is under review by the Joint Committee on Public Health, and House Bill No. 2807 is under review by the Joint Committee on Revenue. These committees may release their findings at any time, and at that point I will immediately blog about the results. The joint-rule reporting deadline is March 2010, and that is the latest point which the committees must release their findings.


Slowly, the dominoes are falling in the direction of  mandating 100% eprescribing adoption, due to the well documented patient safety and cost benefits. Generally, I oppose legislative mandates for any clinicians as an intrusion on the physician–patient relationship. However, if designed and implemented properly, eprescribing carries benefits not only pertaining to safety and quality but also to office workflow efficiency. Massachusetts is just one of many states pushing for eprescribing, and at some point soon, I suspect most if not all states will introduce incentives/ laws to attempt to do away with the paper prescription pad for good other than for controlled substances. Finally, in a future blog, we can share with you how we are even making progress with the controlled substance eprescribing limitations in a pilot program with DEA approval under auspices of the MA Department of Public Health.
Tom Sullivan, MD

About Tom Sullivan, M.D.

Thomas E. Sullivan, M.D is a board-certified specialist in cardiology and internal medicine with over 40 years of clinical practice. He currently works for DrFirst and sees patients part-time in Massachusetts. His expertise in the application of information technology to health care has helped to create an international standard (ASTM) for the exchange of medical record information called the Continuity of Care Record (CCR). With AMA, he was founding chair of their e-Medicine Advisory Committee, worked with the Physician Consortium for Performance Improvement, represented the AMA and helped create the Physician EHR Coalition and is past chair of the AMA Council on Medical Service.