Alaska makes e-prescribing possible throughout U.S.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. Alaska this week became the 50th and final state to pass legislation allowing electronic prescribing between doctors and pharmacists.

On the heels of similar announcements over the past year by Georgia, South Carolina, Washington D.C and West Virginia, Alaska has passed changes to its laws and regulations to allow for what is known as "e-prescribing." The news marks a major milestone for the United States healthcare system in transitioning from written or faxed prescriptions to safer, more efficient electronic prescribing.

"This is a significant milestone as momentum continues to grow nationwide for electronic prescribing," said Bruce Roberts, National Community Pharmacists Association executive vice president and chief executive officer. "The ability for pharmacists and physicians to communicate electronically means enhanced safety and efficiency for everyone. We are pleased to see this goal realized and look forward to increased utilization between physicians and pharmacists."

To capitalize on the opportunity for safer and more cost-efficient prescribing, SureScripts, which operates the Pharmacy Health Information Exchange, is working closely with community pharmacies throughout Alaska to immediately activate previously certified computer systems for electronic prescribing.

"When the nation’s community pharmacies launched the Pharmacy Health Information Exchange into full production at the beginning of 2004, we had the technical capability in our network to support e-prescribing between physicians and pharmacists anywhere in the nation," said Kevin Hutchinson, president and chief executive officer of SureScripts. "At that time, however, only about half of the states had laws and regulations that would even allow electronic prescribing. Today, we are proud to announce that all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., now allow their physicians and pharmacists to electronically exchange prescriptions and lifesaving prescription information."

"Community pharmacy is vital to the health care system, and e-prescribing is another step forward for the efficiency and safety of patient care," said Steven Anderson, president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. "This will prove a wise move for all 50 states."

SureScripts has certified the software solutions being used by more than 95 percent of the nation’s retail pharmacies. As a result, the majority of Alaska’s 86 community pharmacies can now begin accepting electronic prescriptions and electronically processing refill authorizations, and join the more than two-thirds of the nation’s pharmacies actively exchanging prescription information.

In a separate but related development, RxHub, a rival e-prescribing system by the nation’s three largest pharmacy benefit managers, revealed this week it has seen a 30 percent increase in the first half of 2007 in the adoption of e-prescribing. RxHub tracked the increase through 35 million patient encounters through its National Patient Health Information Network. The network was set up to connect authorized physicians to pharmacy information for consenting patients at the point of care, according to the company, which was founded in 2001 by CVS Caremark, Express Scripts and Medco Health Solutions.

"Americans spend more than $200 billion annually on drugs. Because patients often do not comply with their medication regimen, information from the RxHub’s National Patient Health Information Network can help physicians and pharmacists work with those patients to improve compliance," said RxHub chief operating officer J.P. Little. Little called the data generated by the system "the cornerstone for medication reconciliation and medication therapy management offerings in the marketplace."

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