COVID-19 Triggers ePrescribing, Direct Messaging Increase

Surescripts’ ePrescribing platform hit the 1 million prescriber mark during the spread of COVID-19.

Throughout the spread of COVID-19, healthcare providers have increased their use of ePrescribing, direct messaging, and prescription price transparency tools to streamline patient care and boost patient data exchange, according to a recent Surescripts report.

During March, outpatient visits dropped roughly 60 percent, which boosted telehealth visits up to 46 percent across health facilities.

Due to a decrease in ambulatory care visits and an increase of telehealth or remote visits, health organizations and clinicians leveraged their health IT and EHRs to provide optimal care to their respective patients, the report suggested.

"For nearly twenty years, Surescripts has recognized that the digitization of health information drives significant improvements in care quality, safety and costs," Tom Skelton, chief executive officer of Surescripts, said in a statement.

"As the entire healthcare industry has faced incredible challenges over the past several months, the need for enhanced information sharing has triggered an acceleration of innovation and adoption that is putting these critical tools in the hands of more providers to help improve healthcare."

Surescripts noted an increase in ePrescribing, prescription price transparency, and electronic case reporting (eCR) to public health facilities, as providers worked to adapt to these uncontrollable circumstances.

With patients potentially using various health facilities or telehealth to conduct visits, the Surescripts ePrescribing platform hit over 1 million prescribers in August. According to the vendor, this was a 25,000-prescriber increase since December 2019.

Number of prescribers enabled Electronic Prescribing for Controlled Substances (EPCS), which can help providers control opioid fraud and abuse, also increased from 50 percent in January to over 55 percent.

Prescription drug costs are a huge sticking point for both patients and providers. For patients, a hefty price tag can be the difference between getting their medications for paying their rent that month; more often than not, patients choose the rent.

According to an earlier Surescripts survey, roughly 50 percent of patients said they had not filled a medication because it was too expensive, and approximately 30 percent said the prescription took too long to fill.

And for providers, the poor medication adherence that stems from high prescription drug costs can have disastrous effects on outcomes, putting the patient in danger.

As a result, the vendor’s Real-Time Prescription benefit now has over 300,000 prescribers utilizing the tool. This EHR-embedded tool gives access to therapeutic alternatives, real-time prescription costs, and coverage details to its users.

“This tool saves a ton of time and resources for our staff, from processing prescriptions, then reversing them, wasting supplies, returning meds to stock … Real-Time Prescription Benefit makes it so much more efficient,” Mehul Khakhkhar, owner of Upgrade Pharmacy, said in a statement. “Best of all, price transparency technology can help us achieve the best possible outcomes for our patients."

Finally, Surescripts reported an influx of providers using electronic case reporting (eCR). eCR is the automated production and submission of reportable diseases and conditions from the EHR to public health agencies, according to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention.

Between February and July, the vendor exchanges more than one million COVID-19 eCR reports to public health agencies.

“COVID-19 has shone a bright light on our need to need to maximize the use of standards-based interoperability tools … As one of the original eCR pilots, we were able to go live in about three days and hope to advance eCR as a nationwide approach to case reporting,” Steven Lane, MD, director of Clinical Informatics, Privacy, Information Security & Interoperability for Sutter Health.

The integration of these platforms has helped prescribers and pharmacists streamline prior authorization, manage drug shortages, support patients over telehealth platforms, and process prior authorizations.  

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