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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
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Health Information Technology

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How Does e-Prescribing Work?

E-Prescribing refers to a prescriber's ability to electronically send prescription information directly to a pharmacy from the point-of-care. It eliminates the use of handwritten prescriptions, faxed notes, or calling in prescriptions, all of which are at high risk of error.  Many e-Prescribing systems can also check for dangerous dosages or drug combinations, inform you of generic alternatives, and supply you with patient eligibility information and the authorization requirements of your patient’s drug plan.  E-Prescribing can be conducted either through an EHR system that has e-Prescribing capability or through a stand-alone e-Prescribing system.  

In terms of quality improvement, e-Prescribing can allow you to more easily and comprehensively manage your patients’ medication information and reduce the occurrence of prescription errors.  You can use e-Prescribing in conjunction with clinical decision support features, such as drug formularies and reference information, drug interaction warnings, and allergy alerts.  Some e-Prescribing systems can provide you with reports that show whether a patient has filled or refilled a prescription. With that type of information readily available, it becomes easier to monitor patients’ adherence to their drug regimens.

The importance of e-Prescribing is emphasized by the EHR Incentive Programs, which made e-Prescribing a “core” (required) objective.  In Stage 1 of Meaningful Use, eligible professionals are required to use EHR technology to generate and transmit prescriptions electronically to the pharmacy.  To meet this objective, more than 40 percent of all permissible prescriptions must be transmitted electronically.  

Related Resources:

CMS e-Prescribing – This website contains a simple definition of e-prescribing and links to CMS’ e-Prescribing incentive program.
e-Prescribing Module – HRSA’s Health IT Toolkit module on e-Prescribing provides information on readiness assessment and implementation.  
Electronic Prescribing – AHRQ webpage provides an overview of e-prescribing and links to resources.
Electronic Specifications – This EHR Incentive Program webpage offers a guide to reporting quality measures results.  

Developed by the Health Resources and Services Administration as a resource for health centers and other safety net and ambulatory care providers who are seeking to implement health IT.
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