E-prescribing: Pharmacies use patients to persuade doctors to throw away Rx pads

May 9, 2008

Maybe you’ve seen the signs at your local pharmacy saying “E-prescriptions filled here” and “Give your prescription a head start” They’re part of a campaign to encourage patients to convert their doctors to electronic prescribing.

Maybe you’ve seen the signs at your local pharmacy saying “E-prescriptions filled here” and “Give your prescription a head start” They’re part of a campaign to encourage patients to convert their doctors to electronicprescribing.

The organization behind the campaign is SureScripts, a company created by the pharmacy industry to promote e-prescribing. That’s technically defined as a prescription that goes directly from the doctor’s computer to the pharmacy’s computer (faxed prescriptions don’t meet the definition). SureScripts estimates that more than 40,000 pharmacies have computer systems capable of receiving e-prescriptions. The bulk of these pharmacies are in national chains such as Walgreens or part of discount retailers such as Wal-Mart. SureScripts operates a nationwide data exchange that connects these pharmacies to doctors who use compatible e-prescribing software.

The e-prescribing signs started appearing in pharmacies on April 29. The one that states “Give your prescription a head start” adds “Ask your doctor for an e-prescription” and invites customers to a SureScripts-sponsored website. Besides explaining the benefits of this technology, the website asks “Does your doctor e-prescribe?” By clicking on the question, a visitor can then enter his ZIP code and find out whether his doctor appears on a list of area e-prescribers. If his name isn’t there, the website invites the visitor to print a flyer about e-prescribing that he can give to his doctor.

Assuming that patients buy into e-prescribing, a lot of flyers could get printed. Only six percent of physicians have the kind of software that can transmit prescriptions electronically to pharmacies, according to SureScripts.