The Internet is rapidly becoming the preferred delivery vehicle for placing medical prescriptions and tracing medication history, according to two current studies on e-prescribing. That spells good news for pharmacists who have long struggled with trying to read a hurried physician’s scribbling on a paper prescription pad.
A record 788 million prescriptions were routed electronically in 2012, according to the soon-to-be-released “National Progress Report on E-Prescribing and Safe-Rx Rankings,” by Surescripts, a national healthcare information network in Crystal City, Va. That's up from 570 million in 2011, with 69 percent of office-based physicians now using e-prescribing in their practice.
Electronic medication history use also increased by 48 percent in 2012. Nearly half (47 percent) of patient visits generated an electronically delivered medication history in 2012, according to Surescripts.
The Surescripts study is due to be released in full in May, but the company has shared highlights of the report with Internet Evolution. The report demonstrated continued, rapid adoption of e-prescribing, which is intended to increase efficiency with patient prescriptions -- and help reduce healthcare costs overall.
According to Seth Joseph, vice president of the Pharmacy Business at Surescripts, the average physician in the United States now creates more than 100 e-prescriptions per month. In terms of hard numbers: 44 percent of prescriptions dispensed in 2012 were produced electronically; e-prescription routing increased 38 percent; and prescription benefit responses increased 33 percent.
Just what the doctor ordered: Electronically.
As the study noted, “e-prescribing’s success is changing healthcare. Health IT has become a critical component for the efficient delivery of medicine and cost-effective patient treatments.”
The Surescripts study also looks at where e-prescriptions have seen the greatest growth in 2012. Internists lead the way, with a 15 percent increase in e-prescription activity; followed by cardiovascular specialists and family practitioners, which each increased 12 percent. States that showed the greatest increases in e-prescription activity were (in order) Delaware, Minnesota, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.
Also due for release next month is the study “Electronic Prescribing of Pharmaceuticals – Current and future marketing opportunities and challenges for Pharmaceutical companies based on an understanding of physician experiences and expert consultations,” by Allied Life Sciences, a management and technology consultancy in Somerset, N.J.
E-prescribing has grown exponentially over the past several years, and has now achieved mainstream status, Dilip Phadnis, director of syndicated studies at Alliance, told me:
Drug companies are able to get due attention to their brands at the point of prescription by communicating relevant messages about the brand, copay cards associated with it, patient education materials and other such information. On the other hand, pharmacy benefit management companies are sending messages regarding cost of brand, formulary status, availability of cheaper alternatives, and other such information.
Phadnis sees one wrinkle in the current e-prescription process: The ability for prescription benefit managers to suggest generic medications for name brand medications that may be under consideration.
The Alliance study is being conducted to look into the information received by the physician, and other influences on e-prescribing, so that drug makers can take necessary steps to ensure the frequent consideration of their brands.
“Pharmaceutical companies need to understand in detail all the influences surrounding e-prescribing, so that they can take appropriate measures to provide relevant messages that enable their brands to receive adequate consideration from the e-prescriber,” Phadnis says.
While the Surescripts study is looking at the levels of activity around e-prescriptions, the Alliance study looks at opportunities and challenges with the practice.
Specific points being addressed in the drug-maker's study include:
- What different types of information are available to the physician for consideration at the point of prescription from pharmaceutical companies, pharmacy benefit managers, and other entities?
- Do physicians use this information in selecting brands for prescribing?
- How have the information needs of physicians changed with respect to channel and content -- for use in decision making regarding e-prescribing?
- Are PBMs gaining power over physician prescribing?
- What can pharmaceutical companies do to ensure their products receive fair treatment in prescribing decisions in the present and in the future?
- What are the other issues surrounding this trend for the present and the future?
— David Weldon is an experienced editor, writer and research analyst, with over 30 years of experience in the communications and research fields.