Survey: Private Doctors Slow To Adopt Tools for Electronic Prescriptions

In 2008, roughly 40% of physicians in private practice said that electronic prescribing systems had been installed in their offices, but about one-quarter of them used the systems occasionally or not at all, according to the Health Tracking Physician Survey released last week by the Center for Studying Health System Change, Healthcare IT News reports.

The survey -- which was sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and drew 4,182 responses -- was administered one year before federal incentives for the use of e-prescribing tools were implemented.

HSC senior researcher Joy Grossman also said that few physicians use advanced e-prescribing technology on a regular basis (Manos, Healthcare IT News, 7/22).

Of those with access to e-prescribing tools,:

  • 64.5% said that they often used the systems to check for adverse drug interactions;
  • 53.7% reported frequent use of electronically transmitted prescriptions to pharmacies;
  • 34.3% said that they regularly used an application to check if a drug was covered by a patient's health plan; and
  • 22.7% -- or 9.6% of all ambulatory, office-based physicians -- used all three of those features regularly.

The report suggested that several barriers affect the use of these applications, such as "alert fatigue" from the drug-interaction feature and concerns that health plan formulary data that insurers provide might be incomplete or outdated.

Based on the report's findings on e-prescribing, the researchers conclude that it may take longer than policymakers expect for health care providers to fully demonstrate the "meaningful use" of health IT (Robeznieks, Modern Healthcare, 7/22).

Robert Forster
In addition to Mr. (? Dr.) Duffy's comments, I have observed this underutilization for 3 main reasons: 1. Changing a convenient work flow process of 70years is always difficult-especially for older physicians who's work horizon is relatively short 2. A paper script pad is quite simple and quick--pda's/eRx is more inefficient (yet more accurate) than a simple paper pad. This will improve with use and time. 3. Classical scripts put the responsibility on the patient to fill and check if drug is on formulary if there is one. Electronic Rx transfers this to the physician. Physicians in general are not yet consumer centric. Rob MD
Michael Duffy
These numbers are disturbingly low. The reason might be the systems they are using are standalone e-Rx systems that aren't integrated into their (probably paper) charting process. Switching to an EHR with e-Rx built into the process should increase these number dramatically. The question of the moment is will doctors finally take to EHR or will they continue to be reluctant adopters.

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