4 reasons the federal e-prescribing incentive program works

Federal incentive dollars have been instrumental in significantly increasing doctor use of electronic prescribing tools, according to research published this week in Health Affairs.

The study, conducted in tandem by officials from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and Surescripts, a health information network that connects disparate parties to each other via their electronic health records, found that as of December 2010, roughly 40 percent of e-prescribers adopted the tools as a result of government incentives. The research examined data from Surescripts' e-prescribing network between May 2006 and the end of 2010, with the first two years of research categorized as a "pre-intervention period," and the time period from Aug. 1, 2008 through Feb. 28, 2009 categorized as a "peri-intervention" period.

"With the program of federal incentives for e-prescribing in the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act now in its final year, it is important to evaluate whether or not the program achieved its intended effects of increased adoption and use of e-prescribing," the authors said. "We found strong evidence that the incentives did indeed succeed."

The researchers said that the incentives resulted in upward of 94,000 new e-prescribers following the MIPPA's passage in July 2008 through December 2010, listing four reasons for such success:

  • The program's inclusion of a sliding scale of incentive dollars and penalties, which the researchers said provided higher return on investment for early adopters
  • The program's incentives being tied to reimbursement for Medicare services
  • The continuation of incentive dollars for use of e-prescribing tools, providing greater motivation to "invest in long-term workflow adjustments"
  • Eligibility incentives being based on "clear and measurable results," rather than on "demonstration of compliance with a process"

According to Surescripts' annual National Progress Report and Safe-Rx Rankings, unveiled in May, a record 788 million prescriptions (44 percent) were routed electronically in 2012, up from 570 million (36 percent) in 2011. What's more, more than 38,000 physicians (69 percent) used e-prescribing in 2012. Nearly half of all office visits (48 percent) resulted in electronically generated medication history requests, up from 31 percent in 2011.

Still, holes in formulary and benefit (F&B) information and medication history of patients have caused some provider skepticism of e-prescribing, according to research published in January 2012 in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

To learn more:
- here's the study's abstract in Health Affairs