Growing Use of E-Prescriptions in Healthcare

The digitization of the Healthcare Industry has seen great improvement in the quality of service provided to patients/consumers. This is highly evident in the adoption of electronic prescriptions (e-prescriptions) as chronic conditions continue to be a major cause of death in the United States.

In the United States, nearly half of the population suffers from at least one chronic condition in their lifetime with 7 out of every 10 deaths resulting from a preventable illness[1]. The percentage of the Americans suffering from chronic illness is projected to increase overtime, reaching 49% of the population by 2025[2]. To help improve the quality of care and decrease the amount of preventable deaths, healthcare providers are utilizing e-prescriptions and health technologies to better service their patients.

Using Technology to Solve the Non-Adherence Crisis

One of the major challenges in public health is medication non-adherence. According to research by the Healthcare Intelligence Network, patients who stop taking their medications create 64% of all hospitals readmissions[3]. As a result, Stage 2 of HITECH Act’s meaningful added provisions that permitted the use electronic health records for e-prescription technologies.

The use of e-prescriptions in the United States has grown exponentially in recent years. A recent report by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) found that all states had at least 40% of its physicians e-prescribing medications using an EHR[4]. This growth is largely driven by the HITECH Act’s push to improve the speed and security of connected infrastructures.

E-Prescriptions Resulting in Higher Quality of Care

As a result of the Healthcare Industry’s acceptance of e-prescriptions, medication adherence has seen great improvement. Research conducted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy and the University of Wisconsin School of Pharmacy found that 81.3% of patients preferred e-prescriptions over paper prescriptions, with 30% reporting that it improved their adherence[5].

Last year, e-prescriptions for controlled substances was passed in all 50 states. The passing of e-prescriptions for controlled substances was a major concern for many states as many states commented about a perceived lack of oversight. However, because e-prescriptions utilize EHR, the percentage of “doctor shopping” fell considerably. According to New York State Attorney Eric Schneiderman, maintaining a consistent patient record using EHR helped cut incidents of doctor shopping by 75%[6].

While the benefits of e-prescriptions are noted throughout the health industry, there are many technical and regulatory challenges to its full implementation.

Challenges to Implementing E-Prescriptions

In 2015, additional provisions to the HITECH Act’s Stage 3 rules have allowed for more flexibility and time to implement e-prescription systems. The benefit of utilizing e-prescriptions comes with joining a system of healthcare providers and pharmacies. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 73% of independent pharmacies are not connected to an e-prescription system[7].

The lack of connectivity amongst independent pharmacies becomes increasingly problematic for pharmacies located in remote areas. With local healthcare facilities and providers being limited, relying on paper prescriptions introduces further complications as handwritten prescriptions can be illegible, inaccurate, or lost.

E-prescription systems must also meet EHR certification standards as set by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Human Information Technology (ONC). Systems that transmit information from applications will need to meet additional regulatory requirements like Unique Device Identifiers and increased portal security. Many states require that e-prescription systems are failsafe and disaster-safe. Information held in databases must also be encrypted to meet HIPAA standards. Other regulations concerning host devices may apply depending on the state.

It’s also important to keep in mind that much of these regulations are still being developed. The industry-wide adoption of EHR and other health technologies continue to create innovative services that increase the quality of care. E-prescriptions rely heavily on the connected nature of EHR, pharmacies, and healthcare providers. As connectivity between systems and applications improve, e-prescriptions will play an increasingly important role in ongoing patient care.

Healthcare providers interested in e-prescriptions will need to invest in the security and integrity of their data infrastructures. Tiempo Development offers pre-built software engineering teams with HIPAA certifications to create customized solutions for their healthcare clients. Our software engineers specialize in infrastructure optimization and Big Data for seamless workflows. To learn more about our services, visit our Healthcare Solutions page!

[1] “The Growing Crisis of Chronic Disease in the United States”. Partnership To Fight Chronic Disease. http://www.fightchronicdisease.org/sites/default/files/docs/GrowingCrisisofChronicDiseaseintheUSfactsheet_81009.pdf

[2] Ibid.

[3] Troy H. “10 Medication Adherence Facts to Know in 2015”. Healthcare Intelligence Network. http://hin.com/blog/2015/01/22/guest-post-10-medication-adherence-facts-to-know-in-2015/

[4] Meghan G. & Matthew W. “E-Prescribing Trends in the United States”. https://www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/oncdatabriefe-prescribingincreases2014.pdf

[5] “E-Prescribing Enables Pharmacists to Improve Medication Adherence”. McKesson. http://www.mckesson.com/blog/the-impact-of-e-prescribing/

[6] Dan B. “Prescription drug tracking database cuts doc shopping by 75%”. FierceHealthIT. http://www.fiercehealthit.com/story/prescription-drug-tracking-database-cuts-doc-shopping-75/2014-02-05

[7] “What are some of the challenges associated with e-prescribing?” . U.S. Departmetn of Health and Human Services. http://www.hrsa.gov/healthit/toolbox/HealthITAdoptiontoolbox/ElectronicPrescribing/challengesassoc.html