Technology News

DECEMBER 11, 2011

Surescripts Finds Most US Doctors e-Prescribe

It’s official: pen-and-paper prescriptions are on their way out.

That’s according to a new report from Surescripts, the nation’s largest e-prescribing network. The company reported in September that more than half (52%) of physicians now actively e-prescribe. The finding marks a major turning point in the adoption of health IT, says Harry Totonis, president and CEO of Surescripts.

“In three short years, the nation has moved from less than 10 percent to more than 50 percent of physicians e-prescribing,” Totonis said. “This represents one of the most significant milestones achieved to date in the nationwide effort to adopt and achieve meaningful use of health information technology.”

The announcement coincided with Surescript’s Safe-Rx Awards, which recognizes providers’ use of e-prescribing to advance patient safety and care. This year, states honored for having the highest e-prescribing rates were Massachusetts, Delaware, Michigan, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Iowa, Oregon, and North Carolina.

John Halamka, MD, MS, chief information officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and the recipient of the 2011 SafeRx Evangelist Award, says the rapid growth in e-prescribing is just the beginning. He predicts a fundamental shift in the way providers use health data to improve medication safety and clinical outcomes.

“In the next 5 years, we are going to see electronic health information exchange of all types—e-prescribing, clinical summaries, population health—become commonplace and become the rule rather than the exception,” Dr. Halamka said.


CDC Tool Uses Pharmacy Data to Fight Resistance

Antibiotic resistance puts lifesaving medicines at risk, and officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) want hospitals to do a better job of preventing it. To that end, CDC launched a new tool allowing health systems to electronically monitor their use of antibiotics and turn that data into action.

“Hospitals and other health care facilities should monitor the antibiotics used in their facilities,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH. “This new system is a powerful tool that will enhance providers’ ability to monitor and improve patterns of antibiotic use so that these essential drugs will still be effective in the years to come.”

The antibiotic tracking system, which is a component of the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network for monitoring hospital-based infections, will be implemented in 70 hospitals. It interfaces with pharmacy software to automatically transmit data on antibiotic use contained in drug administration and bar coding records, ensuring fast and accurate tracking with no manual entry required.

The strategy is one of several introduced during Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, CDC’s annual awareness campaign that kicked off November 14, 2011. In the past, the agency has targeted unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics for colds and sore throats. This year, its focus is on health systems and prescribing patterns that contribute to increased risk of hospital-based infections, such as Clostridium difficile.

The need for intervention in hospitals is urgent, according to the CDC. “Although previously unthinkable, the day when antibiotics don’t work in all situations is upon us,” said Arjun Srinivasan, MD, director of the CDC’s Get Smart for Healthcare program. “We are already seeing germs that are stronger than any antibiotics we have to treat them.”


Tracking Vax Safety Via Text and E-Mail

During a pandemic, swift vaccination is critical to prevent the rapid spread of disease. In such cases, e-mailing and texting vaccinated patients to identify and record serious adverse events could allow governments to bypass the normally slow route to ensuring vaccine safety, according to a new study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

Scottish researchers piloted the method during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, when UK officials recommended immediate vaccination for certain at-risk groups. Led by pharmacologist Isla Mackenzie, MBChB, PhD, of the Medicines Monitoring Unit at the University of Dundee in Scotland, the team collected data from 3754 patients at the time they were vaccinated with the 2009-2010 swine flu vaccine.

Using a combination of text messages and e-mails, the researchers regularly contacted patients for 6 months to ask whether they were experiencing any medical issues that might be linked to the vaccine. Dr. Mackenzie and colleagues also followed up with pregnant women to inquire about any problems with their pregnancies or the health of their newborns.

Their findings mirrored those obtained by both vaccine manufacturers and the United Kingdom’s primary regulatory body for medicines and medical devices. “Our study adds to the pool of data which indicates that vaccination is generally safe and in the interests of public health,” said coauthor Tom MacDonald, a professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of Dundee.

Dr. Mackenzie added that communicating with patients online speeds data collection without increasing costs, and could provide an additional layer of safety in future vaccination efforts. “This method for near ‘real-time’ monitoring, with minimal additional workload for healthcare staff, should be considered as an additional tool for other safety studies,” she said. PT 

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