Rush to e-prescribing? Not so fast, say docs

You might want to make a note of this. On paper. Despite all the hoopla surrounding electronically generated prescriptions, e-communications and digitized patient recordkeeping over the past decade, most doctors still prefer to write prescriptions the old fashioned way, by hand, scrawled on a prescription pad and handed to the patient.

That was the finding of a recent study of physicians’ prescribing habits by point-of-prescription advertising company MediScripts. The company, which by its own description “puts brand messages at the center of the prescriber-patient engagement,” found that handwritten scripts still outpace e-prescribing by more than 60%. Drug Store News’ Alaric DeArment described the findings in a report on Feb. 28.

The high rate of paper-and-pen prescribing persists despite the fact that more than half of U.S.-based doctors have e-prescribing technology at their fingertips, according to MediScripts. “Until physicians gain comfort with the technology, many will continue to depend on time-trusted, easy-to-use pen and paper,” said CEO Erez Lapsker.

According to a report from Surescripts, the e-prescribing platform and service provider, nearly 36% of U.S. prescriptions dispensed were generated electronically in 2011, and doctors wrote 570 million e-prescriptions. But they wrote 916 million scripts by hand on MediScripts prescription pads alone, not to mention what was written by hand elsewhere. Total number of prescriptions dispensed in 2011 was 4.024 billion, but that includes refills that don’t generate a newly written script, remember.

“While e-prescribing holds great promise, physician preference for pad and pen remains strong,” MediScripts reported. “The high volume of MediScripts prescription pad use demonstrates continued physician preference with a longstanding method that enables health professionals to respond quickly to patient needs.”

It should be pointed out that MediScripts, which specializes in delivering targeted promotional messages via prescription pads, has a big dog in this fight. But its point is well taken: that doctors still feel comfortable wheeling across their little examining rooms on their swivel chairs and quickly scribbling out a script for the patient, “without having to fuss with complicated computer software,” to quote the company’s report.

If you’re a licensed pharmacist or a student doing an internship, please share your own experiences by clicking on the comment link. How much of an impact is e-prescribing having in your practice setting? Are paper scripts still the norm where you dispense, verify and counsel?


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