Trend: E-prescribing on the rise despite problems

In the past, prescribing electronically was confusing to many doctors. Today, however, e-prescribing sounds like a reasonable idea, and its benefits--largely improving prescription accuracy and safety--are well known to most. While the technology continues to be a bit clunky, its use is climbing rapidly. Today, more than 120,000 doctors are using e-prescribing, or more than 20 percent of all office-based prescribers, according to industry sources.

Several things are holding back further growth of this approach, however. First of all, doctors say that the hardware is tricky to use, and security features--such as automatic 30 minute logouts--can be frustrating. Patient prescription histories aren't always robust, either. Among the worst problems, meanwhile, is that federal law still prohibits doctors from prescribing controlled substances online.  Sometimes, frustrated doctors stop using the systems they install.

Ultimately, for e-prescribing to become widely popular, it takes money. Fortunately for advocates, the stimulus package and other incentives should drive greater adoption of e-prescribing over the next several years. Also, the merger of two prescribing networks to form vendor Surescripts, which works with about three-quarters of U.S. retail pharmacies, should be helpful as well.

To learn more about this trend:
- read this Kaiser Health News article

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