More doctors can connect with pharmacies

January 26, 2007

SureScripts, the company that links physician offices to pharmacies online, is providing the connectivity for a recently announced national initative to offer every physician free web-based e-prescribing software. You don't need to send your scripts online to pharmacies to use the software; but if you want to do so, 66 percent of the nation's drugstores are ready to accept electronically generated scripts, including most chain outlets. That's according to Kevin Hutchinson, president and CEO of SureScripts, who says that the company is now transmitting electronic prescriptions through its network in 48 states. (Sending scripts online to pharmacies remains illegal in West Virginia and Alaska.)

SureScripts, the company that links physician offices to pharmacies online, is providing the connectivity for a recently announced national initative to offer every physician free web-based e-prescribing software. You don't need to send your scripts online to pharmacies to use the software; but if you want to do so, 66 percent of the nation's drugstores are ready to accept electronically generated scripts, including most chain outlets. That's according to Kevin Hutchinson, president and CEO of SureScripts, who says that the company is now transmitting electronic prescriptions through its network in 48 states. (Sending scripts online to pharmacies remains illegal in West Virginia and Alaska.)

Hutchinson points out that in some metropolitan areas, as much as 80-90 percent of the pharmacies are online. But in rural areas, especially in the north central states, the percentage is much lower. That's partly because independent pharmacies are strong in that region, and only 20 percent of non-chain drugstores are accepting online scripts, he says. Nearly all pharmacies take faxes, including computer-generated ones, he adds.

While the eHealth Initiative says that less than 20 percent of physicians are prescribing electronically, Hutchinson figures that 20-25 percent are, including doctors who do it through their EHRs. He doesn't deny that the majority of physicians still view e-prescribing as a costly technology that will slow them down and confers few benefits on their practices. But from a business viewpoint, he says, "If I can deliver a higher quality of service to my customers, I need to go through the effort of doing it, even if it's inconvenient for me or slows me down."

Physician resistance, he adds, can be misleading. Thirty percent of physicians—the bulk of them primary-care doctors in small practices—write 80 percent of the prescriptions. And the 70 percent who don't prescribe much don't see the point in e-prescribing. "So for a while, we're going to see a majority of physicians saying they don't see the value, because they write a small percentage of the prescriptions."

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