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4/5/2004
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Focusing On E-Payments At Medicare, Medicaid

Mark McClellan is preparing his bureaucracy to beat a deadline for the adoption of standards for writing and transmitting electronic prescriptions.

The new head of the Medicare and Medicaid programs said one of his top goals is to rapidly win wide adoption of electronic medical record-keeping and prescription-writing.

"This is coming, it's just a question of how we can accelerate it," says Mark McClellan, the new administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The federal agency, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, oversees the $400 billion Medicare and Medicaid programs. McClellan made the remark Saturday during a biotechnology conference at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

He said he's preparing his bureaucracy to beat a deadline for the adoption of standards for writing and transmitting electronic prescriptions. The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 mandates that standards be in place by 2009.

McClellan, who until two weeks ago was the Food and Drug Administration commissioner, took the opportunity to also encourage pharmaceuticals makers, which rely on imaging systems and other advanced information technologies for drug development, to make greater use of those same technologies to speed up and cut the cost of the FDA drug-testing process.

The FDA in February backed using radio-frequency identification technology to help stem drug counterfeiting. In a press conference after his speech, McClellan said there's broad agreement within the pharmaceuticals industry that RFID should be used to track drug shipments by 2007. McClellan called RFID "the most promising technology" for dealing with the drug-counterfeiting problem.

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