Professional News
Potential for Huge Savings Could Help Sell Electronic Prescribing
Psychiatric News
Volume 39 Number 10 page 14-14

The nation’s health care system could save $29 billion if it switched to electronic prescribing universally, a new report from eHealth Initiative suggests.

The eHealth Initiative and the Foundation for eHealth Initiative are independent, nonprofit affiliate organizations with the same mission—to improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of health care through information and information technology, according to its mission statement. Its members include medical specialty organizations, health care facilities, hospital associations, and corporations.

E-prescribing systems with clinical-decision support built in could save the health care system as much as $27 billion by reducing medication errors. Such electronic systems are designed to check each prescription for inconsistencies such as excessive doses or conflicts with the patient’s known allergies or other active medications.

Fewer prescribing errors would produce another $2 million in savings in reduced hospital and doctor visits, according to the report.

The technology for e-prescribing has been slow to catch on in the health care system although it would make drugs more affordable to seniors under Medicare, according to the report. Only between 5 percent and 18 percent of physicians are using some form of an e-prescribing system.

"While this represents an increase over the past three to five years, it doesn’t qualify e-prescribing as a standard practice," the authors stated.

The report said that the main barriers were the start-up costs, lack of specific reimbursement, and fear of reduced efficiency in physicians’ practices.

The report suggested that faster, easier-to-use systems will facilitate adoption of e-prescribing, but that physicians need financial compensation or incentives to purchase the systems.

In addition, physicians still need convincing that the systems improve patient safety and quality of care, according to the report.

The report, "Accelerating the Adoption of Computerized Prescribing in the Ambulatory Environment," and an executive summary are posted online at www.ehealthinitiative.org/initiatives/erx/.

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