Jokes about doctors’ illegible handwriting may soon join
wisecracks about balky mules and buggy whips among examples of anachronistic
humor that has been rendered irrelevant by technology. According to a new
survey, one out of every three doctors and other prescribing healthcare
practitioners in the United States are prescribing electronically, replacing
conventional paper prescription pads with electronic systems, and the trend is
The information was compiled by e-prescription network
operator Surescripts and released Sept. 21 as part of an event ranking
states by their use of electronic prescribing. Massachusetts led the ranking,
electronically handling more than 32 percent, or about 11 million prescriptions. It was followed by Michigan, Rhode Island,
Delaware, North Carolina, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Indiana and
Florida. The bottom ranking went to North Dakota, which barely edged out
While rankings, even on such prosaic matters as electronic
prescription rates, generate public interest, the bigger news was probably the
overall growth of e-prescribing. In its other research, Surescripts also
found that 47 states more than doubled the use of prescription routing during
2009, while 39 more than doubled their use of prescription benefit information.
E-prescribing involves three steps. First the patient’s
prescription benefit information is confirmed prior to sending the
prescription. Next, a patient’s medication history is cross-referenced with
information from pharmacies and payers. Finally, the prescription is
electronically routed to the pharmacy the patient has chosen.
All three steps grew significantly last year. Nationwide,
electronic requests for prescription benefit information grew from 79 million
in 2008 to 303 million in 2009, the company said. The number of prescription
histories delivered grew from over 16 million in 2008 to 81 million in 2009.
And the number of prescriptions routed electronically grew from 68 million in
2008 to 191 million in 2009.
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