Reports show strong uptick in physician e-prescribing

Many industry observers consider e-prescribing to be among the top success stories of the health IT transition.

But as policymakers and others review the latest report from Surescripts, it may be fruitful to consider the differences and similarities between e-prescription and other categories of health information and technology.

Titled “The National Progress Report on E-Prescribing and Interoperable Healthcare, Year 2011,” the report finds that 22 percent more office-based physicians were using e-prescribing in 2011 than just a year before.

According to this article, other highlights include:

  • E-prescriptions per active e-prescriber have increased over time. In the first quarter of 2008, the average was 49 per month. By fourth quarter of 2011, the study group averaged 213 per month.
  • Eighty-two percent of active prescribers used electronic health records systems for e-prescribing in 2011, compared to 79 percent in 2010.
  • In 2011, Surescripts partnered with pharmacy benefit managers 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.

Perhaps the most interesting finding, however, is that small practices are moving to e-prescribing more quickly than their larger colleagues. This comes on the heels of a recent study that showed, conversely, small practices still lagging behind when it comes to implementing full-scale EHRs.

So why the difference? There are likely several reasons, but the one that makes the simplest sense is that providers can easily “get” the efficiencies and benefits that come with e-prescribing, and it’s not as hard to learn to use as a full-fledged EHR.

Naturally, a full EHR is always going to be more complex than one single aspect of digital data transfer, but the takeaway lesson, for policymakers and developers alike, is that increasing the ease with which technology can be used will lead almost inevitably to more people using it.

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