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E-prescribing reaches milestone adoption

November 30, 2012
by Pamela Tabar, Associate Editor
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Almost half (48 percent) of all physicians in the United States submit their prescriptions electronically, up from only 7 percent four years ago, according to a new report from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).

In addition, since 2008, the national volume of new and renewed prescriptions sent electronically has risen 10-fold to 45 percent, with the states of Minnesota, Ohio and Missouri leading the pack. Twenty-three states have more than half of their physicians using an electronic health record to generate electronic scripts, the report adds.

Several factors have attributed to the surging adoption of e-prescribing:

  • The technology is mature, having been available in a widescale format for about 15 years. Its older kin, the medical information system (MIS), goes back at least 30 years.
  • The 2003 Medicare Modernization Act gave the technology a huge boost by requiring the Medicare Part D drug plan to support it by 2009.
  • E-prescribing is listed among the possible objectives providers can use to demonstrate electronic health record (EHR) meaningful use under Stage 1.
  • The technology is pervasive among pharmacies. As of now, all states have at least 88 percent of pharmacies able to accept electronic prescriptions. In Delaware, Nevada and Rhode Island, nearly every pharmacy in the state is e-prescription-capable.

The e-prescribing effort still has some challenges: Of the four states that generate the most prescriptions in the nation (California, Texas, New York, and Florida), all four are below the national average for transmitting prescriptions electronically.

The ONC study is based on data provided by SureScripts, an e-prescribing network used by about 95 percent of pharmacies transmitting electronic prescriptions. The study does not include private, proprietary networks used by some providers. 

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