Md. in top 10 for RXs written electronically



Maryland ranks fourth among states in the percentage of prescriptions submitted electronically by doctors, a method believed to reduce medical errors, pharmacy industry groups reported yesterday.

Two local groups that have been working to encourage doctors to do so-called e-prescribing, the Delmarva Foundation and MedChi, the state medical society, said they would continue their efforts.

The ranking came from two pharmacy trade associations, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association, and from SureScripts, an electronic network for pharmacies set up by the two associations. The group honored the top 10 e-prescribing states, with Rhode Island ranking first.

The industry groups did not release actual percentages. Tammy Lewis, spokeswoman for the Get Connected campaign, said the e-prescribing rate is below 10 percent, even in the top 10 states.

Electronic prescribing allows a doctor to "write" a prescription on a hand-held device or desktop computer, which transmits the order to the pharmacy, avoiding misinterpretation of the doctor's handwriting.

Most e-prescribing software also advises the doctor if the patient might have an adverse reaction to the drug, and can tell quickly whether the drug is covered by the patient's insurance.

Dr. Michael Tooke, senior vice president and chief medical officer for Delmarva Foundation, said his organization is more than a year into a three-year project, supported by a federal grant, to provide no-cost technical assistance to primary care doctors for adults. Almost all of the practices Delmarva is working with, Dr. Tooke said, are moving not just to e-prescribing but to a full electronic patient record system.

Such systems, he said, allow doctors "to measure the care you're providing and to improve."

T. Michael Preston, executive director of the medical society, said physicians have been slow to adopt full electronic records systems because they can't yet be easily linked to hospitals and labs, and because doctors have to bear the upfront cost while insurers and others often reap savings from the reduced paperwork.

While the eventual goal is full electronic medical records, Preston said, until some of the barriers can be overcome, MedChi sees e-prescribing as a good first step.

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