eHealth Initiative Releases Guides For Rapid Expansion Of Electronic Prescribing

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A new report indicates more than 35 million prescription transactions were sent electronically in 2007, a 170 percent increase over the previous year. The report, "Electronic Prescribing: Becoming Mainstream Practice," offers a detailed examination of the progress made, obstacles that remain, and recommendations for helping the nation's prescribers migrate from paper-based prescriptions to an electronic system.

The report, developed collaboratively by the eHealth Initiative (eHI) and The Center for Improving Medication Management (The Center) with guidance and leadership from a diverse Steering Group of health care stakeholders, summarizes the national experience with e-prescribing over the past four years - from its pilot phase in several states such as California, Massachusetts, Michigan and Rhode Island, to its present day use in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. It outlines additional steps that should be taken to realize optimal results in health care improvement. The report includes 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. A third guide for prescribers is under development now, in collaboration with leading medical societies.

"Our report and the guides released today reflect a broad consensus among consumers, physicians, pharmacies, employers, insurers and others that e-prescribing can offer significant benefits in terms of patient safety, improved outcomes, and cost savings, especially if remaining challenges are addressed. The report contains several consensus recommendations to address those challenges effectively, and we look forward to working with all health care stakeholders to move those recommendations forward immediately," said Janet Marchibroda, Chief Executive Officer, eHealth Initiative.

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"E-prescribing works and its benefits for many stakeholders are proven," said Kate Berry, executive director of The Center. "However, education, incentives, and implementation assistance are needed. We are hopeful that this report and the accompanying guides as well as the efforts of many industry leaders will serve to further accelerate the growth in e-prescribing and move it into mainstream practice."

At the end of 2007, at least 35,000 prescribers were actively e-prescribing. By the end of 2008, estimates indicate there will be at least 85,000 active users of e-prescribing. While e-prescribing is growing rapidly, the adoption level at the end of 2007 represents only about six percent of physicians. As a result: only two percent (2%) of the prescriptions eligible for electronic routing in 2007 were transmitted electronically

Among the challenges listed in the report that limit widespread adoption of e-prescribing technology are the following:

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