E-prescribing growing in popularity across the country

About 200,000 office-based prescribers do so electronically, says a national report. The higher numbers could indicate readiness to meet the government's "meaningful use" requirements.

By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted Oct. 11, 2010

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The latest audit of electronic prescribing activity in all 50 states reports that one of every three physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants in the United State is e-prescribing.

At the fifth annual Safe-Rx Awards in September, held for the first time at the U.S. Capitol, Surescripts, the nation's largest e-prescribing network, announced that Massachusetts ranked first for e-prescribing activity. In that state, 57% of prescribers could do so electronically, and 32% of eligible prescriptions were sent electronically in 2009. Awards are given to the top 10 states with the most e-prescribing activity.

Massachusetts was followed by Michigan and Rhode Island. Three states -- Hawaii, Indiana and Florida -- joined the list for the first time in the eighth, ninth and 10th spots, respectively.

States were ranked on three factors: percentage of e-prescriptions, electronic use of medication history and electronic use of prescription benefits information. This meant that a state with a higher percentage of electronic prescriptions could rank lower than a state with fewer electronic prescriptions, depending on their performance in the other measures.

Paul Uhrig, chief administrative officer for Surescripts, said that because the audit is more comprehensive, this year's rankings can serve as a proxy for states' readiness to meet the federal government's "meaningful use" requirements.

Meaningful use requirements are a set of criteria pertaining to the use of electronic medical records that physicians must meet to qualify for Medicare or Medicaid bonuses starting in 2011.

At the September event, David Blumenthal, MD, the national health information technology coordinator, said two core meaningful use objectives relate to e-prescribing: maintenance of an active medication list and the electronic transmission of prescriptions.

In addition, physicians must chose five objectives from a list of 10 to focus on. Two that involve e-prescribing -- drug formulary checks and medication reconciliation -- are on that list.

Uhrig said the information in the state rankings will give the government a sense of how effective its resources have been in terms of driving meaningful use of EMR systems. "Whether it's a redeployment of resources or a refocus or a different use of resources ... you can perhaps reprioritize at a higher level based on what's happening with e-prescribing," he said.

Surescripts Annual Progress Report, separate from the Safe-Rx Award rankings, showed widespread growth in e-prescribing. In 2009, 47 states more than doubled their use of prescription routing, and 39 more than doubled their use of prescription benefit information. About 200,000 office-based prescribers now use e-prescribing.

The report showed that the number of physicians using e-prescribing tools tied to an EMR has risen in recent years, another indication that e-prescribing rates can be closely tied to EMR use. Currently, 77% of e-prescribers use an EMR to prescribe, up from 54% at the end of 2007.

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E-prescribing top 10

Surescripts' Safe-Rx Awards went to 10 states with the most electronic prescribing activity. The audit used to produce the rankings looked at several factors, including the number using an e-prescribing system.

1. Massachusetts

2. Michigan

3. Rhode Island

4. Delaware

5. North Carolina

6. Connecticut

7. Pennsylvania

8. Hawaii

9. Indiana

10. Florida

Source: Surescripts National Progress Report and Surescripts Safe-Rx Ranking

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