Surescripts, which is a nationwide network connecting the computer systems of physicians and pharmacies, recently released their annual report on e-prescribing. This survey offers a snapshot of the state of e-prescribing in today’s medical world.
The numbers – which are based on the survey’s 2011 data – speak for themselves:
- 317,000 physicians e-prescribed; this is an increase of 67 percent from the prior year.
- 58 percent of office-based physicians e-prescribe.
- 570 million e-prescriptions were sent to pharmacies.
- The number of e-prescriptions rose by 75 percent.
- 36 percent of all prescriptions dispensed were sent as e-prescriptions (up from 22 percent in the prior year).
- Smaller practices are more likely to e-prescribe than larger practices.
- Among specialty groups, internists, family physicians, cardiologists, and endocrinologists are most likely to e-prescribe (75 percent of them do it).
But what does all of this mean for patient compliance?
A key reason to care about e-prescribing is whether or not it gets better patient outcomes. There is no doubt that e-prescribing technologies significantly improve the rate of prescription pick-up by patients.
This report showed that patients who get their prescriptions the old fashioned way (phoned in, faxed, or handed a slip of paper in the doctor’s office) only pick up their medications 69.5 percent of the time. Meanwhile, the “first fill” rate for physicians who tend to e-prescribe is 76.5 percent. This 10 percent improvement in filling new prescriptions snowballs into significant benefits for patient outcomes and healthcare costs.
When physicians have an electronic connection to the pharmacy, it means the physician can access the patient’s medication history, as well as the patient’s drug benefits. This survey showed that physicians are leveraging this technology, with 62 percent of patient visits involving an electronic check of benefit information and patient medication histories being accessed electronically 31 percent of the time.
So what’s the problem with paper prescriptions?
A major sticking point with paper prescriptions is that some patients misplace them or forget to turn them in to their pharmacy. These prescriptions were written for a reason, and the patients who never filled them will be untreated, allowing their disease to progress with additional complications and the potential for much higher medical costs (for the patient and the health care system) in the future.
According to this Surescripts survey, the 10 percent uptick in fill rates due to e-prescribing and similar technologies can save up to $240 billion in health care costs over the next 10 years.
Another interesting element of e-prescribing is the access to data that is simply not available with a paper scrip. With e-prescriptions, providers can track which prescriptions are never picked up by patients. This allows medication adherence issues to be addressed at the very source of the problem.
BioPlus introduced a system for physicians to e-prescribe last year with our TAP App (Therapy Access Portal application). In addition to e-prescribing, TAP App incorporates other features, such as real-time access to patient compliance, refills, drug profile reviews, and interventions by the BioPlus Pharmacy staff. This web-based portal connects physicians with extensive information about their patients who are being treated through our specialty pharmacy.
Stephen C Vogt, PharmD
President and CEO
The National Progress Report on e-Prescribing and Interoperable Healthcare, Year 2011. Surescripts.com, May 17, 2012.