National report shows surge in e-prescribing among health practitioners

By Erin McCann
06:00 AM

By the end of 2011, 58 percent of office-based physicians were using e-prescribing, with solo practitioners contributing the most significant growth, according to Surescripts, which released today “The National Progress Report on E-Prescribing and Interoperable Healthcare Year 2011.”

Included in the report is data analysis that documents the prevalence of e-prescribing adoption and use in the United States from 2008 through 2011.

The report is the only one of its kind in the U.S. that tracks adoption and frequency of e-prescribing nationwide. Two studies also included in the report measure both the effects of e-prescribing on medication adherence and examine e-prescribing use to determine the attainability for the e-prescribing measure in both Stage 1 and Stage 2 of meaningful use.

[See also: EHR incentive payments tally $4.5B to date.]

By the end of 2011, 58 percent of office-based physicians were using e-prescribing. Adoption rates were shown to be the highest – at 55 percent – among smaller practices with six to 10 physicians, and practices with two to five physicians totaled to 53 percent.

Solo practitioners contributed the most significant growth to physician adoption – from 31 percent in 2010 up to 46 percent in 2011.

Among specialty groups, e-prescribing adoption rates were highest among internists at 81 percent, endocrinologists at 78 percent, cardiologists at 76 percent and 75 percent for family practitioners.

Other highlights from the report include:

  • The number of electronic prescriptions in 2011 increased to 570 million, up from 326 million e-prescriptions in 2010. By the end of 2011, an estimated 36 percent of prescriptions dispensed were routed electronically, up from 22 percent at the end of 2010.
  • A recently completed analysis shows that of the physicians who adopted and began using e-prescribing in 2008, up to 60 percent have successfully met the Stage 1 meaningful use e-prescribing measure and 38 percent of these early users would meet the proposed Stage 2 meaningful use e-prescribing measure if it were now in effect. Also observed in the results was the increase in e-prescriptions per active e-prescriber over time. In first quarter 2008, there was an average of 49 per month. By fourth quarter 2011, the study group averaged 213 per month.
  • In 2011, Surescripts partnered with PBMs and retail pharmacies to compare the effectiveness of e-prescriptions and paper prescriptions on first-fill medication adherence. The data showed a consistent 10 percent increase in patient first-fill medication adherence (i.e., new prescriptions that were picked up by the patient) among physicians who adopted e-prescribing technology. The analysis suggests the increase in first-fill medication adherence combined with other e-prescribing benefits could lead to between $140 billion and $240 billion in healthcare cost savings and improved health outcomes over the next 10 years.

[See also: E-prescribing can earn docs an extra 2 percent.]

In addition to tracking numerous measures of health IT adoption and use, the report also discusses the future of e-prescribing, the value of prescription benefit information and how industry collaboration is driving continuous improvements in electronic prescription quality. For a downloadable copy of "The National Progress Report on E-Prescribing and Interoperable Healthcare, Year 2011" go to