One giant leap forward in the transformation of health care is the use of electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) to reduce mistakes, control costs, and better coordinate care. E-prescribing has been found to improve patient care and safety by preventing medication errors that are associated with paper prescriptions. Recognizing the importance of e-prescribing in improving patient care, part of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program provides incentive payments for certain eligible health care providers who e-prescribe as part of meeting the meaningful use requirements that rely on certified EHR technology.
E-prescribing reduces many types of prescribing errors and eliminates medication errors due to illegibility. A recent study showed that e-prescribing via EHR reduced prescribing errors 1.5 fold in adult ambulatory care patients (Abramson 2011). E-prescribing is also helpful in the inpatient setting. This is because e-prescribing saves time and money. In terms of what this means in dollars and cents, a Brigham and Women’s Hospital researcher found that doctors who used e-prescribing systems embedded with decision support tools saved $0.70 per patient per month or $845,000 annually per 100,000 insured patients.
ONC Programs Promote E-Prescribing
At ONC, the State Health Information Exchange Cooperative Agreement Program (State HIE Program) has focused on promoting pharmacy participation in e-prescribing among physicians and pharmacists. ONC’s 62 Regional Extension Centers are also helping primary care providers from individual and small practice settings across the United States adopt and use EHRs to meet the meaningful use objectives and help to provide safer care to their patients.
Due in part to these efforts and the increasing number of providers that are meeting the meaningful use objectives, there has been a marked increase in e-prescribing at the national and state level between December 2008 and June 2012. ONC has posted a new data brief [PDF - 732 KB] that looks at this increase and highlights changes in rates of physicians e-prescribing, pharmacy capability to accept e-prescriptions, and volume of new and renewal prescriptions sent electronically.
The data brief reports that:
Almost half of physicians nationwide e-prescribe through an EHR
The vast majority of community pharmacies across the country are enabled to accept e-prescriptions
The volume of new and renewal prescriptions sent electronically has increased ten-fold since 2008