Office-based doctors warm to e-prescribing

Experts say the increase shows the influence of federal incentives and revised rules on what can be prescribed electronically.

By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted Nov. 28, 2011

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More than half of all office-based doctors are prescribing electronically, according to data released by the e-prescribing network Surescripts.

The company announced that as of Nov. 9, more than 52% of office-based doctors are actively prescribing electronically, up from only 10% three years ago and 36% at the end of 2010.

The milestone is considered an indicator of the number of physicians preparing their practices to meet meaningful use requirements, said Harry Totonis, president and CEO of Surescripts. Also, a barrier to electronic prescribing was resolved in July 2010, when the Drug Enforcement Administration started allowing electronic prescribing of controlled substances. Before the DEA action, many physicians refused to implement e-prescribing tools to avoid having to juggle two processes for prescribing.

Surescripts said there are 357,000 active prescribers, including physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants with prescribing authority, on its e-prescribing network. The company found that 94% of retail pharmacies are equipped to receive e-prescriptions.

The network's 2010 National Progress Report showed that practices with two to 10 physicians led in e-prescribing adoption last year.

Electronic prescribing is one of the key objectives required under the meaningful use incentive program for which physicians can earn Medicare or Medicaid bonuses for using an electronic medical record system. Stage one of the incentive program requires physicians to transmit at least 4% of eligible prescriptions electronically. Participating in an e-prescribing network also helps physicians meet other objectives, such as maintaining active medication lists for patients and checking for drug-to-drug interaction and drug allergies.

Data exchange also is a critical component of meaningful use. Last October, Surescripts announced the expansion of its network's capabilities to allow the exchange of data and clinical notes among EMRs, health information exchanges, health system networks and pharmacies.

"In the next five years, we are going to see electronic health information exchange of all types -- e-prescribing, clinical summaries, population health -- become commonplace and become the rule rather than the exception," said John Halamka, MD, chief information officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. "I look forward to it, because ultimately, in a few years, I'm going to be ready for retirement and I'll be a patient as well."

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Top 10 e-prescribing states

The electronic prescribing network Surescripts announced on Nov. 9 the 10 states with the highest rates of e-prescribing from the total number of prescriptions. Four states -- Iowa, North Carolina, Oregon and South Dakota -- made the list for the first time.

1. Massachusetts
2. Delaware
3. Michigan
4. Connecticut
5. Rhode Island
6. Pennsylvania
7. South Dakota
8. Iowa
9. Oregon
10. North Carolina

Source: Surescripts

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