Electronic prescribing: what's the buzz?

There's a lot of buzz around electronic prescribing lately.

There's a lot of buzz around electronic prescribing lately. First, SureScripts, which operates the biggest network connecting physician offices online with pharmacies, has acquired the electronic prescribing network of MedAvant. (Formerly known as ProxyMed, this network was originally developed by Walgreens back in the '80s.) Between 5,000 and 10,000 physician users of the MedAvant service will now have expanded access to pharmacies and will also be able to send prescriptions online for the first time. Previously, they were only able to transmit prescriptions to drugstores by fax, according to SureScripts.

Meanwhile, clinicians using SureScripts-certified e-prescribing software and EHRs now have access to a new emergency-activated, nationwide service that can quickly give them medication histories for millions of patients. Sponsored by Brooks Eckerd, CVS Pharmacy, Giant Food Pharmacy, Kerr Drugs, Longs Drugs, Rite Aid, Stop & Shop, Walgreens, and Wal-Mart, the Emergency Rx History Service will use SureScripts' electronic network for communications.

Along with all of this cheerful news comes a bracing dose of reality from the Center for Studying Health System Change. In a recent survey of physicians, the Washington, DC think tank found that many of the e-prescribing products used by doctors lack advanced features that could help them improve the quality and safety of healthcare. These include the ability to maintain complete patient medication lists; clinical decision support tools, such as alerts and reminders; access to patient-specific formulary data; and the capacity for two-way electronic communications between medical practices and pharmacies or PBMs.