E-prescribing volume expected to triple in 2008

December 28, 2007

The number of new prescriptions and renewals electronically routed from clinicians to pharmacies will grow from 35 million in 2007 to an estimated 100 million in 2008.

The number of new prescriptions and renewals electronically routed from clinicians to pharmacies will grow from 35 million in 2007 to an estimated 100 million in 2008. It's a prediction from SureScripts, a company created by the pharmacy industry to connect its members with e-prescribers.

The anticipated surge in e-prescribing isn't surprising, given the federal push for this technology, the spread of electronic health records, and the growing number of pharmacies capable of receiving prescriptions digitally. However, e-prescriptions still represent only a sliver of all new prescriptions and renewals—2 percent in 2007, and an estimated 7 percent in 2008.

SureScripts defines e-prescribing as a computer-to-computer transmission, also known as electronic data interchange, or EDI. Consequently, the company's tally of e-prescriptions excludes those that are created by software and then delivered to the pharmacy as a print-out, a traditional fax, or a computer-generated fax.

There's also a wrinkle in SureScripts' calculation of all new prescriptions and renewals, which numbered 1.5 billion in 2007. The company doesn't count those for controlled substances, which can't be transmitted by EDI on orders of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. That ban exists because the DEA has held that hard-copy prescriptions with hand-written signatures lessen the chance that controlled substances will get in the wrong hands.

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