ePrescriptions could save billions: US study

A US study has found ePrescribing could save the healthcare system billions by reducing the rate of non-adherence.

US ePrescription network Surescripts conducted a study from de-identified data that links ePrescribing to a significant increase in first-fill medication adherence.

The World Health Organisation estimates that as many as 50 per cent of patients do not adhere fully to their medication treatment, leading to premature deaths and billions in preventable healthcare costs.

The Surescripts analysis suggests that the increase in first-fill medication adherence combined with other ePrescribing benefits could, over the next 10 years, lead to between $US140 billion and $240 billion in healthcare savings and improved health outcomes.

Surescripts collaborated with pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers on the study to quantify the benefits of ePrescribing. Reviewers analysed de-identified data sets representing over 40 million prescription records – comparing electronic prescriptions with paper, phoned- and faxed-prescriptions – to measure the impact on first-fill medication adherence.

The data showed a consistent 10 per cent increase in patient first-fill medication adherence (i.e., new prescriptions that were picked up by the patient) among physicians who adopted ePrescribing technology when compared with those who did not use ePrescribing.

Doctors who adopted ePrescribing used the technology to route up to 40 per cent of their prescriptions electronically during the time of the study, and Surescripts estimates that first-fill medication adherence rates will continue to improve as ePrescribing adoption and usage increase.

"The Surescripts analysis is an important contribution to a growing body of literature on ePrescribing and on medication adherence," Harvard Medical School Professor William H. Shrank said.

"In a huge study, they have shown a clear link between ePrescribing and first fill medication adherence. This speaks to the potential of technology to improve the efficacy of drug therapy, which ideally should promote better health outcomes and reduce costs."

The Surescripts study suggests two key factors contribute to the increase in first-fill adherence. First, prior studies have found as high as 28 per cent of paper prescriptions never make it to the pharmacy, a well known but difficult-to-address problem known as "prescription leakage".

Second, the study validates previous findings that patient co-pay is highly associated with prescription abandonment rates, or the percentage of prescriptions not picked up at the pharmacy.

Surescripts' analysis confirms that the higher the co-pay, the more likely it is that the prescription will be abandoned by the patient.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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