Electronic prescriptions in the United States hit 1 billion for the first time in 2013 and eclipsed the number of written new and renewal prescriptions of 800,000 by 200,000, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health information Technology reported.
This spike marked a ten-fold increase from 2008 when only 7 percent of prescriptions were written electronically, Meghan Hufstader Gabriel and Matthew Swain wrote in an ONC issue brief published July 11.
They pulled data from an e-prescription network operated by Surescripts and used by the majority of community pharmacies in the United States. From 2008 through 2014, the number of community pharmacies able to receive electronic prescriptions increased from 76 to 96 percent, ONC reported.
ONC spokesman Peter Ashkenaz said the e-prescription count did not include those done electronically by the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments and Kaiser Permanente. These three largest health care systems in the country collectively serve 27 million patients or 8.5 percent of the U.S. population of 318 million and operate their own, closed e-prescribing systems.
ONC reported e-prescriptions recorded such a huge jump over the past five years because of financial incentive programs for doctors to adopt the technology, including the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act and the Electronic Health Record Incentive Programs, which went into operation in 2011 and through this April paid doctors and hospitals just under $24 billion to adopt health record technology.
Minnesota had the highest rate of physicians prescribing through EHR systems in 2014, followed by Iowa at 95 percent, Massachusetts at 94 percent and Delaware at 79 percent. At the low end of the scale, 48 percent of physicians in Alaska used EHRs for e-prescriptions, followed by California at 53 percent, Hawaii at 60 percent and Idaho at 62 percent.
The ONC report said nationally, 57 percent of new and renewal prescriptions were sent electronically in 2013 and in 45 states over half of all prescriptions were handled electronically.