Study: E-prescribing increase helps adherence, costs

May 29, 2012

The number of physicians and clinicians using e-prescribing increased by 67% in 2011 and they filled 75% more medication orders electronically, according to a new downloadable report by Surescripts, which operates a nationwide network connecting the computer systems of physicians and pharmacies.

The number of physicians and clinicians using e-prescribing increased by 67% in 2011 and they filled 75% more medication orders electronically, according to a new downloadable report by Surescripts, which operates a nationwide network connecting the computer systems of physicians and pharmacies.

The study also reported that 58% of all office-based physicians were using e-prescribing software last year.

Those figures bode well for healthcare costs, based on a Surescripts study done in 2011, which showed a 10% increase in patient first-fill medication adherence on e-prescribed orders compared with paper scripts or prescriptions that are phoned in. 

According to Surescripts, the analysis suggests that the increase in first-fill medication adherence combined with other e-prescribing benefits could lead to between $140 billion and $240 billion in healthcare cost savings over the next 10 years.

"The findings are an early indicator that the meaningful use objectives for e-prescribing appear to be set at a level that was attainable for the majority of providers,” Harry Totonis, president and CEO of Surescripts, said in a news release. “This should serve as an encouraging sign for regulators as they look to raise the bar on meaningful use measures in ways that continue to lower costs and improve the quality of the nation's healthcare system."

Some of the numbers from the Surescripts report:

Some 390,000 clinicians, including physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants, used e-prescribing software in 2011 compared with 234,000 in 2010, a 67% increase.

The number of electronic prescriptions routed in 2011 grew to 570 million, up from 326 million e-prescriptions in 2010.

By the end of 2011, an estimated 36% of prescriptions dispensed were routed electronically, up from 22% at the end of 2010.

However, some barriers to e-prescribing remain, according to Surescripts. Nine states do not permit physicians to electronically prescribe controlled substances, and in 13 other states, the regulatory status of e-prescribing any controlled substance is unclear. And although FDA lifted a ban on the e-prescription of controlled substances in 2010, its complicated requirements cause most physicians to use paper scripts for controlled substances.