More than half of the nation's doctor's offices and nearly all of its retail pharmacies are now handling electronic prescriptions, according to Surescripts.

Surescripts, electronic prescriptions, e-prescribing, retail pharmacies, doctor's offices, Harry Totonis, e-prescriptions, e-prescription use, Massachusetts, health information technology, Safe-Rx Awards, medication errors, John Halamka

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E-prescribing embraced by physicians, pharmacies

November 10th, 2011

ARLINGTON, Va. – More than half of the nation's doctor's offices and nearly all of its retail pharmacies are now handling electronic prescriptions, according to Surescripts.

The pharmacy and health information network said Wednesday that 52% of all office-based physicians now actively use e-prescribing, up significantly from less than 10% three years ago. Also, 94% of retail pharmacies nationwide are now connected and receiving e-prescriptions.

According to Surescripts' annual audit of e-prescription use nationwide, the state with the highest rate of e-prescribing last year was Massachusetts, followed by Delaware, Michigan, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Iowa, Oregon and North Carolina. The latter four made their debut in the list of the top 10 e-prescribing states.

"In three short years, the nation has moved from less than 10% to more than 50% of physicians e-prescribing. This represents one of the most significant milestones achieved to date in the nationwide effort to adopt and achieve meaningful use of health information technology," stated Harry Totonis, president and chief executive officer of Surescripts, whose network has 357,000 active prescribers (including office-based physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants).

Surescripts said its audit found that prescribers in Massachusetts used e-prescribing for 43% of all prescriptions in 2010, helping to avoid medication errors from poor handwriting and similar drug names. In addition, 41% of patient visits benefit from electronic access to a patient's medication history, which helps doctors and their patients avoid potentially harmful drug interactions. Massachusetts was recognized at the sixth annual Safe-Rx Awards along with nine other states that made the greatest use of e-prescribing in 2010.

"In the next five years, we are going to see electronic health information exchange of all types — e-prescribing, clinical summaries, population health — become commonplace and become the rule rather than the exception," commented Dr. John Halamka, chief information officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, a top-ranked health care information company.

Halamka is the recipient of the Safe-Rx Evangelist Award, given each year to the person or organization whose work has made a significant impact on the awareness and use of e-prescribing as a key means of reducing medication errors. "I look forward to it because ultimately, in a few years, I'm going to be ready for retirement and I'll be a patient as well," he remarked.