PHARMACY

E-prescribing may give way to universal adoption

BY Jim Frederick

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT Now, it’s up to the doctors.

(THE NEWS: DEA allows controlled drug e-prescribing, handing pharmacy advocates a key victory. For the full story, click here)

In a dramatic if long anticipated break with its own regulatory past, the Drug Enforcement Administration earlier this week agreed to sweep away its longstanding rule preventing doctors from electronically prescribing controlled substances. The capitulation came with the release of the DEA’s interim final rule for 2010, and it clears away the last big legal roadblock to nationwide, universal electronic prescribing of commonly dispensed medications.

That doesn’t mean the floodgates to universal adoption of electronic patient records and paperless prescribing have suddenly opened. A large majority of family physicians and their practices — roughly 3-out-of-4 of them — still hand-write prescriptions, and rely on their patients to carry them to the pharmacy for dispensing.

Although “electronic health record adoption is picking up rapidly, with an estimated 27% of physicians using some kind of EHR, the vast majority of medical records in the U.S. are still on paper, with the average appointment taking 13 pages to document,” confirmed Karen Riley, a spokesperson for the New York eHealth Collaborative and the NYC Regional Electronic Adoption Center for Health.

And, as study after study of patient adherence rates confirms, between the point of prescribing and the local pharmacy yawns a vast gulf that swallows many written scripts. In one recent study, researchers at Harvard Medical School found the problem of  “primary nonadherence” is rampant. Tracking 75,000 patient visits, they found that 22% of first-time patient prescriptions were never filled.

Allowing e-prescribing of potent and tightly restricted pain relievers and other medications won’t bridge most of that gap. But it will help close the loop between physician, patient and pharmacist for several large classes of medicines, and it will simplify the prescribing process for family docs and specialists.

Opening controlled substances to the world of electronic data storage and communications has long been a top priority for Surescripts, the e-prescribing network set up nine years ago by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and its independent pharmacy counterpart, the National Community Pharmacists Association. “There’s a high demand for it, both at the state level — where they want to track the use of controlled substances — as well as at the federal level,” former Surescripts CEO Kevin Hutchinson told Drug Store News in one interview.

“That will help tremendously,” Hutchinson went on in that 2008 interview. “It’s a roadblock for us today, because physicians have to think about when to write scripts electronically, and when to pick up the paper pad. That’s difficult, and that is one final hurdle we need to get over.”

Now that hurdle has been vaulted. The real transformation of the nation’s healthcare system — away from outmoded paper records and handwritten scripts to electronic data storage and transmission — will depend on how quickly doctors embrace health information technology.

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Target to expand its retail clinic presence

BY Antoinette Alexander

MINNEAPOLIS Target is looking to open eight new clinic locations this September, which includes new clinics at Target stores in Chicago and three in the Palm Beach, Fla., area.

Target introduced the Target Clinic in 2006 and currently operates 28 nurse practitioner-staffed locations in Minnesota and Maryland.

"Target is committed to helping our guests and team members achieve total well-being," stated Keri Jones, SVP health and beauty for Target. "By offering convenient, affordable and high quality care with no appointment necessary, Target Clinic is the perfect solution for busy families."

Construction is underway at the Evanston, South Loop and Near North Chicago Target stores. In early June, construction will begin at the Broadview and Tinley locations as well as the three Palm Beach-area Target stores. The eight new Target Clinic locations are expected to be open in early September.

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Costco installs health kiosks in Canada pharmacies

BY Alaric DeArment

PORTLAND, Ore. — Mass merchandiser Costco is adding information kiosks to its 25 pharmacies in Canada’s Ontario province.

Aisle7, the U.S.-based company that makes the kiosks, said the kiosks would make customer self-care education on generic and branded drugs, as well as drug information, available through an interactive kiosk-based display.

“We’re excited to offer our shoppers the Aisle7 program as an extention to the services we provide in our pharmacy,” Costco assistant VP pharmacy eastern division for the United States and Canada Rick Duffy said. “Aisle7 provides us with a credible, easy-to-use information resource for our shoppers, as well as a customizable marketing platform to promote our monthly health events.”

 

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