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Even When Physicians Adopt E-Prescribing, Use of Advanced Features Lags

About 1 in 3 Office-Based Physicians Routinely E-Prescribed in 2008; Fewer Used Advanced Features Such as Drug Interaction Alerts

News Release
July 22, 2010

Alwyn Cassil (202) 264-3484 or

WASHINGTON, DC—Even when physicians have access to e-prescribing, many do not routinely use the technology, particularly the more advanced features the federal government is promoting with financial incentives, according to a new national study released today by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC).

Slightly more than two in five office-based physicians reported that information technology (IT) was available in their practice to write prescriptions in 2008, the year before implementation of federal incentives, according to the study funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). And, among physicians with e-prescribing capabilities, about a quarter used the technology only occasionally or not at all.

The study also found that  fewer than 60 percent of physicians with e-prescribing capability had access to three advanced features included as part of the Medicare and Medicaid incentive programs—identifying potential drug interactions, obtaining formulary information and transmitting prescriptions to pharmacies electronically—and less than a quarter routinely used all three features.

“Adoption of e-prescribing remains low, particularly among the half of all physicians who work in solo or two- to five-physician practices, said study author Joy Grossman, Ph.D., an HSC senior researcher. “And, among physicians with e-prescribing capabilities, many do not use the technology routinely, and even fewer use advanced e-prescribing features routinely.”

Based on HSC’s nationally representative 2008 Health Tracking Physician Survey, the study findings are detailed in a new HSC Issue Brief—Even When Physicians Adopt E-Prescribing, Use of Advanced Features Lags—available online at Funded by RWJF, the survey includes responses from more than 4,700 physicians, and the response rate was 62 percent. Because the study focuses on e-prescribing, the study sample was restricted to 4,182 office-based physicians.

Of physicians with e-prescribing capabilities, about two-thirds (64.5%) routinely used the drug interaction feature, slightly more than half (53.7%) routinely transmitted prescriptions to pharmacies and only 34.3 percent routinely used the formulary information feature. Moreover, only three in five physicians with e-prescribing (59.4%) reported that all three features were available in their practice, and fewer than a quarter (22.7%) used 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.

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The Center for Studying Health System Change is a nonpartisan policy research organization committed to providing objective and timely research on the nation’s changing health system to help inform policy makers and contribute to better health care policy. HSC, based in Washington, D.C., is funded principally by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is affiliated with Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.


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The Center for Studying Health System Change Ceased operation on Dec. 31, 2013.