Doctor using a tablet

Electronic Prescriptions Continue to Rise, Fueled in Part by Wider Use of Telemedicine   

What is e-prescribing and why is it important? 

E-prescribing is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of scratching out a prescription for medications on a piece of paper, health care providers enter prescription information electronically. The prescription is securely transferred to the pharmacy where you pick up your medications.  

E-prescribing improves patient safety and fights fraud and abuse. On the patient safety front, using an electronic system for managing all prescriptions allows physicians to check and be alerted to duplicate therapies, as well as dangerous interactions with other medications and conditions, such as allergies. It also builds a drug history for the patient in their electronic medical records and reduces errors associated with paper prescription pads, such as illegible handwriting, misunderstood abbreviations or unclear dosage per day supply. 

These problems are even more crucial to avoid for controlled substances, when someone might improperly alter a prescription to obtain a larger dosage or quantity. When a pharmacy gets an electronic script, they know exactly what to fill, with the possibility for error or fraud largely removed from the process.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has helped accelerate the use of e-prescribing among health care providers 

Pandemic encourages growth of existing programs 

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Physician Group Incentive Program has been encouraging broader adoption of e-prescribing since 2015. Based on recent data, submissions of electronic prescriptions for controlled substances – things like opioid pain medications – for doctors participating in PGIP increased to 72.8% through the third quarter of 2020. That exceeds a 2020 goal to prescribe close to 65% of prescriptions electronically.   

Looking at the total e-prescribing rate, which includes controlled substances like opioids and non-controlled substances such as medications that treat infections and chronic conditions, the percentage of prescriptions being prescribed electronically have hit an all-time high of 86.8%Some of the increases are likely driven by social distancing and telemedicine use. 

Providers must follow state mandate starting October 2021 

Electronic prescribing rates for controlled substances have increased more than 1,000% since the Blue Cross incentive launched in late 2015 and are catching up with the rates for other prescriptions. Electronic prescribing for controlled substances is more complicated because it requires a dual authentication for increased security. 

The Blue Cross e-prescribing initiative will be replaced this year due to a state mandate for electronic prescriptions that takes effect in October 2021. 

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Photo credit: Ridofranz

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