Ongoing issues hamper 
efficiency of e-prescribing

While physicians and pharmacists alike generally view electronic prescribing with favor, several barriers stand in the way of their realizing its full benefit, according to a November government study.


The study, “Transmitting and processing electronic prescriptions: Experiences of physician practices and pharmacies,” funded by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, focused on a key aspect of e-prescribing: the electronic exchange of prescription data between physician practices and pharmacies. 


The researchers found that despite the favorable view of e-prescribing, problems continued to arise from prescription renewals, connectivity between physician practices and mail-order pharmacies, and manual entry of prescription information by pharmacists, particularly drug names, dosage forms, quantities and patient instructions. For example, physicians and pharmacists used e-prescribing features for electronic renewals less often than for new prescriptions, while more than 25% of community pharmacies said they didn’t send electronic renewal requests to physicians and one-third of physician practices had e-prescribing systems not set up to receive electronic renewals or received them infrequently. 


“Physicians and pharmacies have come a long way in their use of e-prescribing, and that’s a very positive trend for safer patient care and improved efficiency,” AHRQ director Carolyn Clancy said. “This study identifies issues that need attention to improve e-prescribing for physicians, pharmacies and patients.”


“There are many resources available to clinicians, pharmacists and payers that include valuable guidance on how to manage and avoid issues so they can get the most out of e-prescribing,” Surescripts spokesman Rob Cronin told Drug Store News. “Taken together, they represent a long-standing and ongoing and collaborative effort by Surescripts and many other organizations to supplement e-prescribing education and training.”


E-prescribing has grown tremendously over the past few years. According to Surescripts, the number of prescribers sending scripts electronically grew from 156,000 at the end of 2009 to 234,000 at the end of 2010, representing about 34% of office-based prescribers. Meanwhile, by the end of 2010, about 91% of retail pharmacies were connected for electronic routing of prescriptions. The number of prescriptions routed electronically grew from 191 million in 2009 to 326 million in 2010.