Going paperless may help keep doctors from tearing their hair out. A new study by Surescripts, the nation's largest e-prescription network, shows that saving patients the trouble of toting a prescription to a store increases the likelihood that they will pick up and take their meds.
The study found that 10% more patients picked up their meds when the prescription was transmitted through the ether to their pharmacy. It's one of the reasons Surescripts estimates eprescribing could save $140 billion to $240 billion in healthcare costs over the next decade. Another likely source of savings: giving doctors access to point-of-prescription information. Providers issue electronic prescriptions using either electronic health record or standalone software that brings up an individual patient's formulary information. This gives doctors an opportunity to lower patients' upfront costs, which could in turn, contribute to greater adherence.
Accessibility is also built into the outcomes. Surescripts' report says e-prescriptions aren't restricted to boutique pharmacies or practices – 91% of community pharmacies accept e-prescriptions, and about 58% of all office-based prescribers used paperless prescriptions in 2011. That means about one-third of physicians are now e-prescribers, a marked increase from just four years ago when it was closer to one in ten.
Although e-prescriptions are on the rise, the study notes that some specialists favor it more than others. For example, the highest using specialties were: endocrinology/metabolism, with 78% use among providers; gastroenterology, at 69%; optometry at 67%; and psychiatry and urology at 68% each.
The report also showed that smaller practices were more likely to go electronic -- use among solo practitioners jumped from 31% in 2010 to 46% in 2011 and practices of two-to-five people went from 42% e-prescribing in 2010 to 53% in 2011. Larger practices have also increased their use, but at a slower pace: 35% of practices of 26-100 used e-prescriptions in 2011, up from 31%, and 27% of practices with 100 or more went electronic in 2011, compared to 22% in 2010.