E-prescribing could save $140 billion

February 15, 2012

Surescripts has released study findings that link e-prescribing to a significant increase in first-fill medication adherence and healthcare savings.

Surescripts has released study findings that link e-prescribing to a significant increase in first-fill medication adherence and healthcare savings. The company’s analysis suggests that the increase in first-fill medication adherence combined with other e-prescribing benefits could, over the next 10 years, lead to between $140 billion and $240 billion in healthcare savings and improved health outcomes.

The data showed a consistent 10% increase in patient first-fill medication adherence among physicians who adopted e-prescribing technology. Physicians who adopted e-prescribing used the technology to route up to 40% of their prescriptions electronically during the time of the study.

The researchers came up with savings estimates by looking at other studies that have estimated as many as half of patients don’t adhere to their medication treatment, and then extrapolating total savings for e-prescribing’s increased adherence over 10 years.

“For example, when prescriptions are filled incrementally, that leads to lower downstream medical costs, lower hospitalization rates, and savings all down the line,” says Seth Joseph the lead researcher on the study. “We looked 10 years out and said, overall what is the volume of e-prescriptions? What does that mean today in terms of total volume and what do we expect to happen over the net 10 years?”

Surescripts collaborated with pharmacies and pharmacy benefit managers (PBM) on the study. Reviewers compared electronic prescriptions with paper, phoned- and faxed-prescriptions to measure the impact on first-fill medication adherence. The study involved more than 50,000 active prescribers (representing Test and Control physicians) across 50 states using more than 200 e-prescribing applications, four different pharmacy and PBM organizations, and de-identified data sets representing more than 40 million prescription records.

Prior studies have found as many as 28% of paper prescriptions never make it to the pharmacy. The study validates previous findings that patient copay is highly associated with prescription abandonment rates, or the percent of prescriptions not picked up at the pharmacy. Surescripts’ analysis confirms that the higher the copay, the more likely it is that the prescription will be abandoned by the patient.

Previous studies have found that e-prescriptions have higher abandonment rates than non e-prescriptions, but the Surescripts study demonstrates that e-prescriptions have higher abandonment rates in part because more prescriptions make it to the pharmacy.

Go back to the Managed Healthcare Executive eNews newsletter.