e-Prescribing nears halfway mark

ONC releases new stats

Close to half of physicians nationwide are now prescribing electronically via their electronic health record systems on the Surescripts network, with all states producing double-digit increases.

The percent of physicians e-prescribing using EHRs swelled from 7 percent in December 2008 to 48 percent in June 2012, according to a report released Nov. 27 from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

Surescripts is a leading e-prescribing network, which is used by 95 percent of pharmacies for routing prescriptions, excluding closed systems such as Kaiser Permanente.

Twenty-three states had more than half of their physicians e-prescribing using an EHR, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, and Wisconsin experiencing the largest increases since December 2008, according to the report.

In 2012, Massachusetts (77 percent), New Hampshire (74 percent), and Iowa (73 percent) have the highest rate of physicians e-prescribing through an EHR, according to the report’s authors, Michael Furukawa, director of ONC’s Office of Economic Analysis, Evaluation, and Modeling; and Matthew Swain, a program analyst, and Meghan Hufstader, an economist, both from that office.

[See also: eRx makes steady gains in California, report shows.]

“One giant leap forward in the transformation of health care is the use of electronic prescribing to reduce mistakes, control costs, and better coordinate care,” they wrote in a blog post. E-prescribing has also been found to improve patient care and safety by preventing medication errors that are associated with paper prescriptions and illegible handwriting.

For new and renewal prescriptions sent electronically, Minnesota (75 percent), Ohio (73 percent), and Missouri (65 percent) have the highest rates. However, the four states with the highest volume of prescriptions – California, Texas, New York, and Florida – are below the national average.

Physicians weren’t the only segment to adopt e-prescribing widely. The vast majority of community and chain pharmacies are now able to accept prescriptions sent electronically, the report said.

[See also: Minnesota No. 1 e-prescriber, knocks Massachusetts to No. 2.]

To boost e-prescribing, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Electronic Health Record Incentive Program includes e-prescribing requirements to be eligible for payments for the meaningful use of EHRs. ONC also has promoted pharmacy participation for e-prescribing as part of its state health information exchange program and technical assistance for small physician practices to e-prescribe using EHRs through ONC’s 62 regional health IT extension centers.