Electronic prescribing gaining traction among office-based physicians

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According to data from Surescripts, the number of office-based physician practices utilizing e-prescribing technology grew substantially between 2010 and 2011.

At the end of last year, approximately 317,000 small physician practices were using e-prescribing technology to issue medications to patients, compared to 190,000 at the end of 2010.

Surescripts’ study, titled “The National Progress Report on E-Prescribing and Interoperable Healthcare, Year 2011,” revealed that the most significant growth area of e-prescription technology adoption was in single-physician practices. The use of e-prescribing systems increased by 15 percentage points between 2010 and 2011, rising from 31 to 46 percent.

In addition, the report indicated that more than 570 million prescriptions were handled electronically in 2011, a 75 percent increase from the previous year.

“We all know that about 30 percent of paper prescriptions never get filled; by contrast all electronic prescriptions make it to the pharmacy,” Harry Totonis, president and chief executive officer of Surescripts, told Information Week. “This is good for patients and healthcare overall. We estimate that over the next 10 years this will yield [up to] $240 billion in healthcare savings.”

Besides reducing costs and increasing the efficiency of pharmacies, e-prescribing also has significant potential to improve the quality of patient care. As electronic prescriptions rely on health information contained in medical informatics networks and other healthcare IT systems, physicians can access data on whether patients are actually taking their medication or completing courses of antibiotics.

Michael Fisher, a researcher at Harvard Medical School, told the news source that by electronically tracking patients who do not fill medications prescribed to them, insurance companies and healthcare providers can develop plans to improve adherence to pharmaceutical regimens, potentially lowering rates of illness recurrence.