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While there has been considerable attention of late focused on the Affordable Care Act and the courts, many states, health care providers, and employers are continuing to move forward on the assumption that the Affordable Care Act will stay in effect—at least in its broadest dimensions. While a Supreme Court decision is now expected by the end of the 2012 term, getting ready for implementation of the major provisions of the ACA that go into effect in 2014 cannot wait for that court decision.
Many of those working to improve health care in America have advocated for the use of electronic prescribing as an important tool for improving patient safety and moderating health care cost trends. A recent report released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) documents abuses in the Medicare drug benefit that underline the potential value of electronic prescribing tools. According to the GAO report, some beneficiaries were able to obtain more than a year’s worth of narcotics by “shopping” different doctors. Electronic prescribing tools can enable health plans, physicians, and pharmacists to detect doctor-shopping, and assure that multiple prescriptions are not filled for the same condition within a given time period. Such an approach can both protect the health of patients who may receive duplicate prescriptions in error, and prevent fraud and abuse by those who seek prescription drugs for non-medical purposes.