A report by two healthcare information technology and electronic prescribing booster organizations says that 35 million prescriptions were sent electronically in 2007, an increase of 170% compared with the e-Rx total in 2006.
That was the good news.
The bad news is there are still far, far more prescribers not using electronic systems than those who are while significant cost and regulatory barriers to e-prescribing remain.
The report was released today by the eHealth Initiative, Washington, a not-for-profit organization launched by the Markle Foundation whose members now include pharmaceutical manufacturers, data-miners, clinical healthcare IT companies, payers and provider organizations; and by the Center for Improving Medication Management, an association launched by SureScripts, the for-profit prescription drug exchange owned by the two largest retail pharmacy trade groups, and whose members include the American Academy of Family Physicians, Humana, Intel Corp., and the Medical Group Management Association.
The report said that at least 35,000 prescribers were actively using e-Rx systems in 2007, representing about 6% of physicians, but their ranks were expected to grow to 85,000 active users of e-prescribing systems by the end of this year.
Other industry numbers not part of the report provide some context and show that e-prescribing still has a long way to go.
U.S. prescription drug sales grew by 3.8% in 2007 to $286.5 billion, 83% of which came from retail outlets and clinics, according to market data from IMS Health, a drug industry market research firm based in Norwalk, Conn. Major retail sales outlets dispensed about 3.5 billion prescriptions that year, according to IMS Health. So, with roughly 35 million prescriptions being written electronically in 2007, it still represents less than 1% of total retail prescriptions filled.
The report recommends that to increase the use of e-prescribing tools by physicians the federal government should lift the Drug Enforcement Administration requirement that all prescriptions for controlled substances be written on paper and expand successful incentive programs.