The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, a key component of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, promotes the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology. The main goal of the HITECH Act is to encourage the implementation of Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) through incentive payments to physicians. Eligible prescribers can receive up to $44,000 in incentive payments by meeting qualitative and quantitative standards for meaningful use of EMRs.

e-Prescribing qualifies as one meaning use of EMRs, so if your practice implements e-Prescribing you may be eligible for some sort of incentive payment.

The basics of e-Prescribing

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e-Prescribing is the process of filling a medical prescription electronically via a computer or handheld device with e-Prescribing software, thereby taking the place of paper and faxed prescriptions. Its functionality establishes an electronic connection with payers and pharmacies, automating the prescription renewal request and authorization process. It enables prescribers to electronically access patient prescription benefit information and medication history, and route prescriptions to patients’ pharmacies.

The benefits of e-Prescribing

e-Prescribing represents an unprecedented oportunity to reduce health care costs and improve the safety and efficiency of the prescription process. e-Prescriptions arrive directly in the pharmacy’s computer system so pharmacy technicians spend less time interpreting handwriting or re-keying information into their computer systems. Since the prescriber has better information available at the time of prescribing, there is a lower chance that a call back to the practice will be needed to clarify prescription information.

More specifically, the benefits of e-Prescribing to both patients and clincians include the following:

  • Improve efficiency by slashing time spent managing prescription refills for both physicians and staff
  • Reduce call-backs from pharmacies to clarify prescription information
  • Improve safety by reducing preventable adverse drug events compared with traditional paper-based prescription writing. Since there is no handwriting for the pharmacist to interpret, there is less potential for errors caused by similar-sounding drug names
  • Eliminate reliance on handwritten paper prescriptions as well as phone- and fax-based communications between physicians and pharmacies, which reduces the risk of medication errors
  • Provide doctors with real-time electronic functionality that automatically checks for dangerous drug-drug and drug-allergy interactions. Prescribers can check for harmful drug interactions by reviewing patient medication history at the point of care
  • Confirm prescription benefit information prior to sending an e-Prescription, so there is no need for the pharmacist to verify these details
  • Immediate access to economic alternatives for patients, such as generics and substitutes
  • Increase patient convenience, which can lead to an increase in first-fill adherence
  • Improve drug surveillance and recall ability
  • Reduce the potential for fraud or tampering by eliminating the use of handwritten or printed prescriptions that can be altered (in terms of number of pills or refills) before reaching the pharmacist

Visit the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) Web site at or to dowload an informative “Clinician’s Guide to e-Prescribing 2011 Update” for detailed information and step-by-step instructions on how to incorporate e-Prescribing into your pracftice.


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  3. HHS strengthens HIPAA enforcement. US Department of Health and Human Services Web site. Published Oct 30, 2009.
  4. HITECH Act enforcement interim final rule. US Department of Health and Human Services Web site.
  5. Resources – ePrescribing. National Council for Prescribing Drug Programs Web site.
  6. The Recovery Act. Web site.