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More patients pick up e-prescriptions than paper prescriptions


More patients pick up their first prescription when it’s sent to the pharmacy electronically, an industry survey shows. Convenience may not be the only reason.

More patients pick up their first prescription when it’s sent to the pharmacy electronically than when it’s given to the patient on paper, according to the results of a study conducted by an e-prescribing network.

Surescripts analyzed 40 million prescription records from pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers, comparing electronic prescriptions with paper, phoned, and faxed prescriptions to measure the impact on first-fill medication adherence.

The data showed a consistent 10% increase in first-fill adherence among the patients of physicians who adopted e-prescribing technology when compared with patients whose physicians did not use e-prescribing.

“To our knowledge, this is the most expansive study of the impact of e-prescribing on some of these key metrics, such as first-fill adherence,” Seth Joseph, director of strategy and innovation for Surescripts, tells eConsult. “Across every single one of our partners, we found big first-fill medication adherence findings.”

In addition, the results showed that physicians who adopted e-prescribing used the technology to route up to 40% of their prescriptions electronically during the time of the study,January to December 2009,.

Aside from convenience, the greater e-prescribing pickup rate could be due to physicians and patients reviewing which medications are covered by health plans, avoiding a “sticker shock” when the patient arrives at the pharmacy.

“When a physician is able to access the patient’s eligibility, formulary, and benefits information, that physician has a world more of insight into whether there are therapeutic alternatives that are going to be lower cost,” Joseph says. “The physician can have confidence that he or she not just writing the most clinically appropriate prescription but also the lowest cost prescription.”

The World Health Organization estimates that up to half of patients do not adhere fully to their medication treatment, leading to 125,000 premature deaths and billions in preventable healthcare costs. Surescripts suggests that the increase in first-fill medication adherence combined with other e-prescribing benefits could, over the next 10 years, lead to between $140 billion and $240 billion in healthcare savings and improved health outcomes.

The study appeared to contradict an earlier research finding that electronic prescriptions have a higher abandonment rate than paper prescriptions. Surescripts representatives explained the seemingly different findings.

Paper prescriptions appeared-at first glance-to have a lower abandonment rate,” said Ken Majkowski, Surescripts vice president, clinical affairs and product strategy, in a statement. “But historically, the pharmacy could only measure those paper prescriptions that were brought into the pharmacy by the patient. When you consider all of the paper prescriptions that don’t make it to the pharmacy, the true prescription abandonment rate for paper prescriptions is dramatically higher.”

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