This blog post was written by Michele Treinin, Healthcare Analyst at Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS), a healthcare consulting firm in Syracuse, NY.

Getting a prescription historically meant going to the doctor, addressing a chief complaint, being given a piece of paper with a name of a drug and instructions for the pharmacist on how to dispense the drug. The process of generating and filling a prescription has evolved into a systematic streamline workflow process and approach managed electronically. Standards set forth for E-Prescribing actually were derived from standards put forth through the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in 1996.

e-prescribing healthcare trend

The generation and dispensing of a prescription commences while we are in the physician’s office.  Physician practices are increasingly adopting electronic prescribing systems, known as E-Prescribing.  This advancement offers clinicians a powerful tool to improve safety and efficiency in managing a patient’s medication history.  With the advent of this electronic capability, physicians are now able to better manage patient care as it relates to their medication use. In fact, physicians are able to enhance patient safety and medication compliance, improve prescribing accuracy and efficiency, and ultimately, to reduce healthcare costs. E-Prescribing also has provided physicians with the ability to identify drug interactions and allergies and to alert pharmacists of duplicate prescriptions for controlled substances. The biggest benefit of E-Prescribing is the ability to electronically transmit permissible prescriptions electronically to a patient’s pharmacy or third-party prescription mail order company.

According to a report from the Institute of Medicine, released in 2000, medication errors were identified as the most common type of medical error in healthcare, ultimately leading to several thousand deaths a year.  It is the belief that the adoption could improve quality and efficiency and could begin to show opportunities to reduce costs by actively promoting appropriate drug usage, providing information to the prescribing provider and dispensers about formulary-based drug coverage, including formulary alternatives and pertinent insurance information.

As we witness firsthand the benefits of such advancements in technology and health care, providers still have a lot to learn.  While E-Prescribing provides the system to order and track prescriptions, the provider must remain vigilant in engaging in documenting and monitoring all prescriptions, specifically those which the patient takes to the pharmacy versus those that are dispensed electronically at the time of the encounter, specifically for controlled substances.  This is critically important as the landscape of pharmacies is ever-changing.

Last year, more than four billion prescriptions were filled at a variety of pharmacies including retail, mail and boutiques. Even though many drug patents are about to expire, industry profits are still expected to increase especially in the segment of retail pharmacies that specialize in specific treatments and services such as chronic pain management.

This personal or “boutique” pharmacy caters exclusively to providers who prescribe chronic pain medicines. These pharmacies have a strict adherence to regulations and guidelines, which are often deemed to be “not worth it” by many doctors and big, retail pharmacies. By having these “boutiques,” patients receive their medicine from a pharmacy that delivers a higher level of care and better serves patients in those situations.

As new health trends emerge, it is important that physician’s regularly communicate with their patients regarding prescription drugs that they are ordering electronically.  Physicians, particularly those practicing in primary care, are the gate keepers of care, and it is therefore prudent for them to communicate with patients regarding medications including controlled substances, which may be prescribed by other physicians.  And, as cost continues to be a large barrier for patient care, it can also be a driver for patients in seeking alternative care and medication options.  Alternative drugs including herbs and supplements should also be documented in the patient’s record to ensure safety in prescribing and managing medications.  One thing is known for sure though, as “Obamacare” comes to fruition next year, only time will tell how the pharmaceutical industry will respond; we do know, however, profits are likely to soar, especially in this particular niche.

As a healthcare consulting firm, we specialize in assisting physician practices engaging in practice transformation initiatives. Much of our work involves teaching the clinical team on how to maximize the use of the Electronic Medical Record and the E-Prescribing system, ensuring timely and thorough documentation to ensure quality centered patient care.  RMS Healthcare, a division of Research & Marketing Strategies, Inc., has success working with physicians, large multi-site practices, hospitals, physician organizations and ancillary healthcare providers. If you would like more information about RMS Healthcare, please contact our Director of Healthcare and Practice Transformation, Susan Maxsween at or by calling (315) 635-9802.