E-prescribing grows in Massachusetts, but other states lag behind

April 14, 2008

Thirteen percent of all eligible prescriptions are transmitted electronically in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts continues to be the No. 1 state for e-prescribing, but the rate across the country is still low, according to figures released by several pharmacy organizations.

Thirteen percent of all eligible prescriptions are transmitted electronically in Massachusetts, a rate more than six times the national average, said the National Community Pharmacists Association, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, and SureScripts. The organizations held a breakfast event last month near Capitol Hill to publicize their third annual awards to high-ranking states. The other top states in descending order are Rhode Island, Nevada, Delaware, Michigan, Maryland, North Carolina, Arizona, Connecticut, and Washington.

In lauding Leavitt, Gingrich said, "To be candid in a way that I think that the administration probably can't be, he has done so carrying the Office of Management and Budget kicking and screaming into the late 20th century, with some hope of actually getting it into the 21st century before he leaves."

Also at the conference several medical associations announced the launch of a Web site to give physicians and office managers a step-by-step process to begin e-prescribing. Sponsored by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) and other physician groups, the http://getrxconnected.com/ site focuses in part on doctors who are using electronic medical records and other software to fax prescriptions to pharmacies. The government has announced that by January 1, 2009, all computerized prescriptions covered by Medicare Part D must be transmitted electronically and not by fax.

The groups cited a study by the MGMA Group Practice Research Network that the "complexity" related to prescriptions cost practices $15,700 for each full-time physician, including time spent clarifying prescriptions.

About six percent of office-based physicians currently e-prescribe, said William Jessee, M.D., MGMA president. He said, however, that more physicians e-prescribed in the first 10 months of 2007 than in all three prior years combined.

With Sen. John Kerry (D, Mass.) accepting the award for Massachusetts, the event's discussion also turned to the E-MEDS proposed legislation which he co-sponsors. The legislation would offer physicians incentives under Medicare to adopt e-prescribing, but by 2011 physicians not e-prescribing would face penalties.

Robert Hall, J.D., assistant director of the American Academy of Pediatrics, noted that another factor that will add to doctors' incentive to e-prescribe is that under Medicaid every paper prescription must soon be on tamper-resistant paper. However, physicians can avoid that requirement if they e-prescribe.

THE AUTHOR is a writer based in the Washington, D.C., area.