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Walgreens sees monthly surge in e-prescribing

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DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreen Co. filled a record number of prescriptions electronically during October, with e-prescribing volume surging by triple digits versus a year earlier.

The drug store chain said Monday that its pharmacies filled a record 4 million prescriptions electronically last month, which represented about 22% of all its eligible prescriptions and marked a 185% gain compared with October 2008. The company has used e-prescribing since 1992.

Walgreens attributed the surge to the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, which gives financial incentives for practitioners who use e-prescribing, as well as to the chain’s ongoing support for the adoption of e-prescribing technology industrywide.

The pharmacy chain estimated that it will fill more than 45 million e-prescriptions this year, a threefold increase from 15 million in 2008. The company said it expects growth to continue with help from financial incentives in the federal stimulus package, which encourage hospitals, doctors and other health care professionals to adopt electronic health records, which includes e-prescribing.

"With the federal stimulus package providing $19 billion in incentives to adopt electronic health records, doctors will gain easier access to software that makes electronic prescribing possible," Don Huonker, senior vice president of health care innovation at Walgreens, said in a statement.

Greater use of e-prescribing systems promotes the objectives of health care reform, including lowering costs and increasing the effectiveness of care, according to Walgreens, which added that it’s actively urging physicians, hospitals and other drug stores to acquire the health information technology necessary to electronically prescribe medications.

"Continued growth in e-prescribing will help meet the goals of health care reform," Huonker explained. "In addition to lowering costs for doctors and pharmacies, electronic prescribing makes it more likely that patients will get their prescriptions filled, benefit from their drug therapy and avoid more expensive medical procedures.

"E-prescribing also reduces the medication errors and adverse drug events that cost the health care system billions of dollars per year," he added. "And by eliminating the need to call a doctor’s office to verify a prescription, e-prescribing provides pharmacists more time to focus on drug interactions, the right dosing and patient consultation."

Walgreens said it also believes e-prescribing can be safely extended to all prescriptions, including controlled substances. Currently, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency does not allow doctors to electronically prescribe controlled substances, which account for roughly 15% of all medications prescribed.


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