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Guide Helps Clinicians Switch From Paper To E-Prescribing Systems

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The eHealth Initiative (eHI), in collaboration with the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Physicians, the Medical Group Management Association, and the Center for Improving Medication Management (Center), issued the first comprehensive, multi-stakeholder-informed "how-to" guide to help clinicians make informed decisions about how and when to transition from paper to electronic prescribing systems. A Clinician's Guide to Electronic Prescribing was released at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) National e-Prescribing Conference in Boston today and follows the agency's decision earlier this year to offer financial incentives--beginning in 2009--to providers who adopt e-prescribing.

"We know e-prescribing is an efficient way to improve health care delivery, decrease medication errors, and prevent potentially dangerous drug interactions," said eHI Chief Executive Officer Janet Marchibroda. "However, the transition from a paper to electronic system is quite challenging. This guide is meant to remove some of the mystery around e-prescribing and help physicians begin to realize some of the many benefits e-prescribing can bring to their patients and their practices."

Developed with the strategic guidance of a multi-stakeholder Steering Group comprised of clinicians, consumers, employers, health plans, and pharmacies, and in partnership with four major medical associations, the guide is designed to meet the needs of two target audiences: The first section of the guide targets office-based clinicians who are new to the concept of e-prescribing, and who seek a basic understanding of what e-prescribing is, how it works, what its benefits and challenges are, and the current environment impacting its widespread adoption. The second section of the guide targets office-based clinicians who are ready to move forward and bring e-prescribing into their practices. It presents fundamental questions and steps to follow in planning for, selecting and implementing an e-prescribing system. The guide also provides a list of key references and resources readers may consult to help make the transition to e-prescribing as smooth as possible.

"E-prescribing holds great promise for improvements in patient safety and advances in care coordination, and the AMA is committed to helping physicians adopt this technology," said American Medical Association Board Member, Steven J. Stack, M.D. "This guide is an important resource for physicians and can aid in the adoption and implementation of e-prescribing."

"With all the momentum toward e-prescribing and its accelerated growth, it is important to assist physicians and other prescribers to ensure that e-prescribing is implemented well in order for the full range of benefits can be achieved," said Steven E. Waldren, MD, MS, Director, Center for Health-IT at the American Academy of Family Physicians and Center for Improving Medication Management Board member. "This Guide provides substantial detail not only on how to get started but what challenges to expect and how to overcome them."

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In June, eHI and the Center for Improving Medication Management released a report detailing the latest figures on e-prescribing, including the progress made, the obstacles that remain, and recommendations for how different stakeholders in the system can support the migration from paper-based prescriptions to an electronic system. Among the findings from the report were the following:

* More than 35 million prescription transactions were sent electronically in 2007, a 170 percent increase over the previous year.

* At the end of 2007, at least 35,000 prescribers were actively e-prescribing. Estimates indicate there will be at least 85,000 active users of e-prescribing by the end of 2008.

* While e-prescribing is growing rapidly, the adoption level at the end of 2007 represents only about six percent of physicians.

* Only two percent of eligible prescriptions were transmitted electronically in 2007.

* The biggest challenges to widespread adoption of e-prescribing by providers are financial burdens, workflow changes, continued needs for improved connectivity and technology, and the need for reconciled medication histories.

Accompanying the June report were corresponding guides that offer practical information for health care payers to support effective adoption, and for consumers to better understand e-prescribing's benefits and use.