E-Prescribing Increased 72% In 2010

One in four drug orders were delivered to pharmacies through secure electronic exchange, reports Surescripts study.

Nicole Lewis, Contributor

May 17, 2011

3 Min Read

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At the end of 2010, approximately one in four prescriptions was delivered electronically, up from one in 18 prescriptions at the end of 2008, a report from Surescripts reveals.

The latest figures also show that over 326 million prescriptions were routed electronically in 2010 versus 190 million in 2009--a 72% increase.

"Electronic prescribing is now well on its way to becoming mainstream practice," Harry Totonis, president and CEO of Surescripts, said in a statement.

He also said replacing phone-, fax- and paper-based prescribing with secure electronic exchange is improving medication management, increasing patient convenience, and reducing costs for all healthcare stakeholders.

The May 12 release of the report, "The National Progress Report on E-Prescribing and Interoperable Healthcare" for 2010, is the fourth in an annual series that tracks the status of e-prescribing adoption and use in the United States.

Other key findings in the report are:

-- Prescription histories delivered to prescribers grew 184% from 81 million in 2009 to 230 million in 2010.

-- About 79% of prescribers used electronic medical records in 2010, up from 70% in 2009.

-- At the end of 2010, approximately 91% of community pharmacies and six of the largest mail-order pharmacies in the United States were able to receive prescriptions electronically.

-- E-prescribing adoption rates are highest among cardiologists (49%) and family practitioners (47%).

-- E-prescribing Is now used by 36% of office-based physicians. In terms of practice size, adoption rates are highest among practices with five to 10 physicians (44%) and two to five physicians (42%).

This year's progress report measures the growth of e-prescribing from 2008 through 2010. The report credits the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, and its federal incentive programs that have pushed the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs) as "one of the most significant drivers of growth" for the adoption of e-prescribing technology.

It also said that the 2009 Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA), which offered a 2% bonus payment in 2010 for e-prescribers that prepared and sent prescriptions to pharmacies electronically using a qualified e-prescribing system, has helped increase e-prescribing rates.

"Given MIPPA's inclusion of both EHR-based and standalone e-prescribing technology as 'qualified systems' under program requirements, MIPPA provides a way for practices to see the benefits of e-prescribing and benefit from incentive monies without a significant capital outlay," the report said.

According to Surescripts' Totonis, not only has there been unprecedented cooperation between the public and private sectors to foster greater use of e-prescribing tools across federal and state governments and the entire healthcare industry, but e-prescribing participants have realized many tangible benefits. Those benefits include fewer medical errors due to poor handwriting, greater awareness of potential adverse drug interactions, and more effective communication of a patient's insurance coverage and generic alternatives.

Looking ahead, the report predicts that upcoming meaningful use requirements will further accelerate e-prescribing utilization through 2015.

Under current Stage 1 meaningful use requirements, 40% of eligible prescriptions must be routed electronically to pharmacies. The requirements for Stages 2 and 3 will place increasing responsibilities on physicians to manage prescriptions electronically. These requirements include the routing of at least 50% of eligible electronic prescriptions to pharmacies in Stage 2 and 80% in Stage 3, and the use of electronically delivered prescription benefit information to inform prescribing decisions.

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