Patients more likely to abandon e-prescriptions than paper ones

December 9, 2010

Patients are significantly more likely to abandon at the pharmacy prescriptions submitted electronically than those dropped off in person, according to the results of a study appearing in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Patients are significantly more likely to abandon at the pharmacy prescriptions submitted electronically than those dropped off in person, according to the results of a study appearing in the November 16 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

William H. Shrank, MD, MSHS, of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, and co-authors at Harvard University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and CVS Caremark identified prescriptions bottled at a particular retail pharmacy chain for patients insured by a certain pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) between July 1, 2008, and September 20, 2008. They used pharmacy data to determine whether prescriptions were picked up or returned to stock, and they used PBM data to determine past and subsequent dispensing at any other pharmacy.

Of the 10.35 million prescriptions of 5.25 million patients studied, 3.27% were abandoned, 1.77% were returned to stock, and 1.5% were returned to stock at the pharmacy but within 30 days were filled (or a prescription in the same medication class was filled) at a drug store. The researchers found that prescriptions delivered electronically were almost 65% more likely to be abandoned than those that had not been electronically delivered.

The authors suggest that when physicians prescribe electronically, they print reminders for patients to help them remember to pick up their prescriptions; doing so could increase the likelihood that patients will adhere to intended therapy regimens. To help decrease the chance of prescription abandonment, the note could indicate the location of the pharmacy to which the prescription was sent, especially in urban areas, where multiple outlets of retail pharmacy chains may exist.