While some 50% of prescriptions in the US are now written digitally, scripts for opioid painkillers are still mostly written the old-fashioned way. Indeed, the need for tighter controls on such drugs continues to intensify: The US Centers for Disease Control estimates that 100 people die each day from overdosing on these drugs, a rate that has tripled since 2009.
That's why Yakimischak is quick to tout the security safeguards of Surescripts' electronic prescribing of controlled substances. "In the world of paper prescriptions, the paper is handed to the patient, who can Photoshop it or give it to someone else," he says. "Electronically, a legal prescription is bits flying on the wire and there is no opportunity for a patient to fiddle with the bits." Ultimately, the move toward electronic prescribing will help doctors recognize abuses earlier, Yakimischak says. "Right now, if someone shows up in the ER, it is nearly impossible for that hospital to know if the person has been getting medications from many hospitals. Having an electronic record of the prescriptions can only help." —Sarah Mahoney