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    Advanced features of e-prescribing often overlooked by physicians

    Even when physicians have access to e-prescribing capabilities, many do not routinely use the technology, particularly the more advanced features the federal government is promoting with financial incentives, according to a new study by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC), a policy research organization funded principally by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and affiliated with Mathematica Policy Research Inc.

    According to the study, slightly more than 40 percent of responding office-based physicians reported that information technology (IT) was available in their practices to write prescriptions in 2008, the year before federal incentives were implemented. Among physicians with e-prescribing capabilities, about 25 percent said they used the technology only occasionally or not at all.

    The study also found that less than 60 percent of physicians with e-prescribing capabilities had access to advanced features included as part of the Medicare and Medicaid incentive programs and designed to identify potential drug interactions, obtain formulary information, and transmit prescriptions to pharmacies electronically. Less than 25 percent of those who had these features routinely used all three of them.

    ÒAdoption of e-prescribing remains low, particularly among the half of all physicians who work in solo or two- to five-physician practices,Ó says study author Joy Grossman, PhD, an HSC senior researcher. ÒAnd, among physicians with e-prescribing capabilities, many do not use the technology routinely, and even fewer use advanced e-prescribing features routinely.Ó

    Of physicians with e-prescribing capabilities, 64.5 percent said they routinely use the drug interaction feature, 53.7 percent said they routinely transmit prescriptions to pharmacies, and 34.3 percent said they routinely use the formulary information feature. Moreover, nearly 60 percent of physicians with e-prescribing capabilities reported that all three features were available in their practices, but less than 23 percent said they use all three routinely. So, in 2008, only 9.6 percent of all physicians in office-based ambulatory settings routinely used the three advanced e-prescribing features, according to the study.

    The survey included responses from more than 4,700 physicians. Because the study focused on e-prescribing, the study sample was restricted to 4,182 office-based physicians.