Use of PQRS, e-prescribing continues to grow

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Participation in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) and the Electronic Prescribing (eRx) Incentive Program has continued to grow, according to a February report from the agency itself. Combined, both programs paid $662 million in incentives in 2010 across all participation options, a 72 percent increase from 2009.

CMS published “2010 Reporting Experience: Including Trends (2007-2011) – Physician Quality Reporting System and Electronic Prescribing Incentive Program” which found that CMS has continued to fine-tune these programs through examples of added participation options (i.e., EHR) and changing some reporting requirements (e.g., under the eRx Incentive program, requiring that eligible professionals report the e-prescribing quality measure in 25 instances, instead of 50 percent of the time).

“These changes have been paralleled by increases in participation and total incentive amounts,” the report found. “Moreover, the numbers who qualified for an incentive and the average incentive amounts generally increased for individual eligible professionals and practices each year.”

A total of $391 million in PQRS incentives was paid by CMS for the 2010 program year, which encompassed 168,843 individual eligible professionals and 19,232 practices. “Total incentive payments for the 2010 PQRS increased 65 percent compared to 2009,” the report found. “The number of practices that qualified for an incentive for the 2010 PQRS increased 50 percent compared to 2009.”

According to the report, the average incentive was $2,157 per eligible professional and $20,364 per practice in 2010.

For the eRx program, a total of $270 million incentives was paid for the 2010 program year, including 65,857 individual eligible professionals and 18,713 practices. The total incentive payments for the 2010 program increased 83 percent compared to 2009 and the number of practices that qualified for the incentive in 2010 increased 83 percent as well compared to 2009. In 2010, 16 percent of eligible professionals participated in the eRx Incentive Program, an increase from 13 percent in 2009.

The average eRx payment was $3,836 per eligible professional and $14,476 per practice.

The measures reportable by the largest number of eligible professionals were mostly preventives measures, which are not specific to a given diagnosis or condition and apply to a broad range of specialties. Te largest measure was “health IT – adoption / use of EHRs” with 761,872 eligible professionals.

The 2010 Physician Quality Reporting System accumulated quality information on over 12 million Medicare beneficiaries, the report noted. “This information can aid the development and evaluation of solutions to lessen the epidemic of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Moreover, the 2010 eRx Incentive Program revealed that over 113,000 eligible professionals and 27,000 practices implemented and used qualified electronic prescribing systems.”

Each patient who received electronic prescriptions has the potential to reap the demonstrated benefits of electronic prescribing such as improving prescription accuracy and reducing preventable adverse drug interactions, the report concluded. Accordingly, as participation in the PQRS and the eRx Incentive Program grows, the usefulness of the information also will grow.