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Study Finds Doctors' Use of E-Prescribing Systems Linked to Formulary Data Can Boost Drug Cost Savings
Date:12/9/2008

Massachusetts health insurers covering 1.5 million patients.

Doctors using e-prescribing with formulary decision support, which accounted for more than 200,000 filled prescriptions in the study, increased their use of generic prescriptions by 3.3 percent, study authors found. These changes were above and beyond increasing use of generics that was occurring among all doctors and the already high rate of generic drug use in Massachusetts.

Based on average costs for private insurers, study authors estimated that the use of e-prescribing could save $845,000 per 100,000 patients per year and generate even higher savings with greater use. The study, entitled "Impact of Electronic Prescribing with Formulary Decision Support on Medication Use and Cost," is published in the December 8 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"These findings show that decision support can improve value for patients," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. "These systems have the added and important benefit of improved patient safety by flagging medication errors before they occur."

Researchers found that the doctors who wrote electronic prescriptions were slightly younger and more likely to be female than those who did not. In addition, internists, pediatricians, and family physicians made up nearly three-fourths of those who used e-prescribing. Of the 17.4 million prescriptions filled over the course of the study, about 212,000 were prescribed electronically. Using e-prescribing systems has the potential to improve drug safety by avoiding drug-drug interactions, drug-disease interactions and other potential drug safety issues.

Lead study author Michael A. Fischer, M.D., of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, noted that even doctors with e-prescribing used it only about 20 percent of the time. "Our results likely represent a conservative estimate of the potential saving
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SOURCE Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality
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