More than half now write e-prescriptions

More than half of those who write prescriptions today do so electronically, according to a study published in The American Journal of Managed Care. The increase is nearly eight times the number who were writing e-prescriptions just four years ago, the study found.

The jump comes after a federal law that took effect in 2009, which provided incentives for Medicare providers to write prescriptions electronically. E-prescriptions are encouraged to eliminate medical errors and improve patient medication adherence.

Researchers studied the rise in e-prescription use from December 2008 to December 2012 by examining data from Surescripts. This e-prescription network serves more than 240 million patients nationwide through most chain, franchise and independent pharmacies.

Data revealed that during the study period, the share of doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants who used e-prescriptions jumped from 7 percent to 54 percent; or 47,000 to 398,000. The share of prescriptions written electronically rose from 4 percent to an estimated 45 percent over the same period, with 86 percent of prescribers using electronic health records.

Meanwhile, the share of pharmacies able to accept e-prescriptions rose as well. At the start of the study period, 70 percent or 43,000 pharmacies could accept electronic prescriptions, and by December 2012, 24 percent or 59,000 were able to do so.

The study described changes in federal law that provided incentives for physicians and pharmacies to convert to e-prescriptions, as well as grants that helped rural communities close technological gaps. In 2008, only 61 percent of rural pharmacies could take e-prescriptions, compared to 75 percent of urban pharmacies. By 2012, this gap had closed (93 percent of rural and 94 percent of urban pharmacies could take e-prescriptions).

Posted: December 2013

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