Primary care physicians like e-prescribing systems, but make little use of their advanced features

Research Activities, January 2010, No. 353

Electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) systems are one type of health information technology that can improve the quality and safety of prescribing medications to patients. However, realizing its greatest potential requires that physicians use more advanced features, such as drug interaction alerts and medication selection support. Primary care physicians appear to understand the patient safety benefits of these systems. However, they do not always realize the benefits of using advanced features, such as patient medication history and drug formulary and coverage information, which could help them select more appropriate lower-cost drugs.

That's the conclusion of a study of 228 primary care physicians, who completed surveys to assess their perceptions about the benefits of e-prescribing systems. A total of 139 physicians were already using e-prescribing systems in the office, while the others were awaiting its installation. E-prescribers were asked to share their experiences with using the system, its impact on job performance, and the amount of e-prescriptions they produced.

Overall, most of the e-prescribers reported positive experiences with their systems. The technology gave them better information to reduce drug interactions and reduced inefficiencies involving pharmacy telephone calls about safety issues. They also felt their system was easy to use, improved quality of care, and made their work easier. Despite these favorable impressions, however, 17 percent of e-prescribing physicians had stopped using their systems. Quitting was associated with perceptions of poor usability. For example, only 37 percent of users knew how to access the system's medication history information. Also, many found the drug coverage information incomplete at least 20 percent of the time. Nearly half (46 percent) admitted to handwriting prescriptions on some occasions. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS16391).

See "Perceptions of standards-based electronic prescribing systems as implemented in outpatient primary care: A physician survey," by C. Jason Wang, M.D., Ph.D., Mihir H. Patel, Pharm.D., Anthony J. Schueth, M.S., and others, in the July/August 2009 Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association 16(4), pp. 493-502.

Current as of January 2010
Internet Citation: Primary care physicians like e-prescribing systems, but make little use of their advanced features: Research Activities, January 2010, No. 353. January 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.