CMS: e-prescribing up but not embraced by all

Electronic prescribing has been growing steadily, if the electronic prescribing (eRx) incentive program is any indication, according to the latest report from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The report, on trends in the eRx program and the Physician Quality Reporting System, found that eligible professionals earned a combined $390,603,021 in incentive payments in the 2013 program year. The number of eligible professionals who qualified for the eRx program increased every year of the five year program, with a total of $171,732,673 in eRx incentives earned in 2013, the last year of the program. This included 259,401 eligible professionals within 54,854 practices. The average eRx incentive payment was $662 per professionals and $3,131 per practice.

In 2013, close to five out of 10 eligible professionals participated, and more than 14 million patients received an electronic prescription via the program. Those in family practice, internal medicine and nurse practitioner specialties had the largest number of participants; nurse anesthetists, physical/occupational therapists, pathologists and rheumatologists had the highest participation rates.

Overall, the number of eligible professionals increased and the number subject to payment adjustments declined. However, 49,576 professionals were still subject to a 2015 payment adjustment; 80 percent of those were because they did not participate in the program. Other reasons for being penalized included failure to meet the reporting requirements or to meet an exclusion.  

The report doesn't address why some professionals failed to participate in the Rx program. However, not all physicians have adopted electronic health records; others have cited inexperience with e-prescribing controlled substances and EHR vendors that are not yet certified to enable such prescribing, which can affect e-prescribing rates. New York, the first state to mandate e-prescribing, recently delayed the start date of the requirement from March 2015 to March 2016 due to concerns that physicians were not yet able to comply.

E-prescribing in general has become more popular in recent years. ONC recently published a guide to help providers prescribe electronically. While many physicians are critical of the Meaningful Use program, one study indicates that e-prescribing may be one of the one of the easiest objectives to meet.

To learn more:
- here's the report (.pdf)
- read the appendix (.pdf)