Beginning on January 1, 2009, physicians who use e-prescribing technology may receive bonus payments from Medicare. The bonus payments will last until 2012, when physicians who are still using paper to prescribe drugs will have their Medicare payments reduced. One rationale for the "paperless push" is to improve safety. Medication mistakes cause 1.5 million Americans to be injured each year. Some of the mistakes occur when a doctor's handwriting is unclear. E-prescribing programs can catch mistakes by alerting the practitioner if the patient is using another drug that might cause an interaction or if the dose seems incorrect. According to Michael Leavitt, Health & Human Services Secretary, another reason for promoting e-prescribing is that $156 million can be saved over a five-year period.
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