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E-Prescribing Helps Doctors Pick Cheaper Drugs

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Wednesday, December 10, 2008 12:08 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: FDA and Prescription Drugs, E-Prescribing, Medication Errors, Protecting Your Family

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IMAGE SOURCE: © NationalErx

A new study finds millions a year can be saved by an electronic prescribing system that informs doctors which drugs are least expensive.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services describes E-Prescribing as, “A prescriber’s ability to electronically send an accurate, error-free and understandable prescription directly to the pharmacy from the point-of-care.”

Only six percent of U.S. doctors currently use “e-prescribing” although doing so may improve efficiency and reduce medication errors such as a pharmacy technician misreading a doctor’s messy handwriting or dispensing a different drug with a similar name.

“One challenge faced by physicians is not knowing which drugs are preferred or not preferred,” said Dr. Michael Fisher of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

“Insurance companies involved in the study provided color coded information – green for preferred drugs, red for non-preferred drugs.”

“The system does not force the doctor to choose a specific drug,” said Fischer.

Researchers evaluated a program in Massachusetts in which two large insurers worked with a maker of e-prescribing systems to get doctors to use one that employed simple color coding to identify prescription medication by name-brand, generic or price level.

More than 1.5 million patients filled 17.4 million prescriptions during the study period.

Insurers use a three-tiered system to identify drug costs:

Tier 1 – generic drugs (lowest cost)

Tier 2 – preferred brand-name drugs (higher cost)

Tier 3 – non-preferred brand-name drugs (highest cost)

In the year following adoption of the e-prescribing system, doctors increased their use of tier 1 prescriptions by 3.3 percent, while prescriptions for more expensive drugs decreased 1.9 percent and the use of non-preferred brand-name drugs decreased even further by 1.5 percent.

Overall estimated savings added up to $845,000 a year for every 100,000 people filling prescriptions, based on 20 percent of doctors using e-prescribing. “Projected savings increase with more availability and use of e-prescribing; for complete e-prescribing use, savings are estimated at $3.91 million per 100,000 patients annually, the report found.”

The findings reveal that doctors do want to help. If they are provided with information on choices of effective drugs at the point of service, they are more likely to prescribe the one that will help their patients to deal with the high cost of drugs, said study author Joel Weissman, of Massachusetts General Hospital.

For more information on this issue, visit The National ePrescribing Patient Safety Initiative (NEPSI), a joint project of dedicated organizations that each plays a unique role in resolving the current crisis in preventable medication errors. #


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