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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Health Information Technology and Quality

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What electronic prescribing capabilities will I need to implement?

Electronic prescribing (e-prescribing or e-Rx) is defined as "a prescriber’s ability to electronically send an accurate, error-free and understandable prescription directly to a pharmacy from the point-of-care.”  E-Rx is credited with reducing medication errors and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of care, for example by eliminating errors due to illegible handwriting and by reducing time to transmit orders.  

One specific area of focus in the implementation of widespread e-prescribing is the treatment of controlled substances, which historically have been subject to additional regulations and safety precautions that precluded them from being electronically prescribed.  The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has revised its regulations to allow practitioners to e-prescribe controlled substances.  Although the new rule went into effect in June 2010, e-prescribing of controlled substances is not yet available to all providers and thus is not required under Stage 1.   

Core Objective for Eligible Professionals:  

  • Generate and transmit permissible prescriptions electronically (e-Rx).  


  • More than 40 percent of all permissible prescriptions written by the eligible professional are transmitted electronically using certified EHR technology.  


  • Any eligible professional who writes fewer than 100 prescriptions during the EHR reporting period.

This objective is applicable to eligible professionals only; it is not required of eligible hospitals.  

Your certified EHR should provide you with the capability to of fulfill this objective, as all certified EHRs will enable a user to electronically generate and transmit prescriptions and prescription-related information.  All will use a standard format and vocabulary that has been approved by ONC (NCPDP SCRIPT 8.1 or 10.6 and any source vocabulary that is included within RxNorm).  As described in the responses to prior questions, e-prescribing is often implemented in conjunction with other required medication management capabilities, including patient medication lists, medication allergy lists, and drug-to-drug interaction checks.  

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.
DEA Electronic Prescribing of Controlled Substances Final Rule – Federal Register notice of the DEA’s regulations allowing the e-prescribing of controlled substances, March 31, 2010.

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