ONC Data Show Significant Growth in Physician E-Prescribing Rates

July 15, 2014 in News

The percentage of physicians who electronically prescribe has increased ten-fold since the implementation of two federal incentive programs, according to new data from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, FierceHealthIT reports (Bowman, FierceHealthIT, 7/14).


The Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act established Medicare incentive payments for physicians who e-prescribe with approved software. The e-prescribing program started paying out incentives in 2009, and some Medicare providers who do not e-prescribe began facing penalties beginning in 2012. Payment reductions increase overtime (iHealthBeat, 9/6/11).

In 2011, CMS launched its Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs. Under the 2009 economic stimulus package, providers who demonstrate meaningful use of certified EHRs can qualify for Medicaid and Medicare incentive payments (FierceHealthIT, 7/14).

Survey Details

For the brief, ONC examined data from Surescripts, an e-prescribing network, spanning December 2008 to April 2014 to determine changes in:

  • Pharmacies’ ability to accept e-prescriptions;
  • Physician e-prescribing rates; and
  • The volume of e-prescriptions.

Survey Findings

Overall, the survey showed that in 2014 70% of all U.S. physicians e-prescribed, up from 24% when the EHR incentive payment program launched and 7% in 2008.

Further, the study showed that the rate of physicians using an EHR to e-prescribe rose in each state between December 2008 and April 2014. States that saw the largest growth in e-prescribing rates included:

  • Iowa;
  • Minnesota;
  • New Hampshire;
  • North Dakota;
  • South Dakota; and
  • Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, community pharmacies with the capabilities to accept e-prescriptions rose from 76% to 96% between 2008 and 2014 (ONC brief, July 2014). 

ONC also noted an uptick in new and renewal prescriptions sent electronically across the U.S., with the number of such prescriptions increasing from 4% in 2008 to 57% in 2013 (Sullivan, VentureBeat, 7/14).

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