I may appear to be somewhat of a troglodyte, but I actually have committed myself to learning to love technology. I am the proud owner of a smart phone, have mastered my email, and actually use two different EMRs. So, you see, this qualified me as an expert on EMRs and e-prescribing (wipe that smirk off your face!)
It was with interest that I read “Effect of Electronic Prescribing With Formulary decision Support On Medication Use and Cost” in the December 8/22 2008 issu3e of Archives Of Internal Medicine by Michael Fischer, MD, MS et al. The authors describe a study in which physicians using e-prescribing with formulary decision support were compared with physicians using traditional paper prescriptions with respect to prescribing tier 1 medications. When prescribing electronically, the physicians were more likely to choose the lower cost generic tier 1 medication. There was a 3.3% increase in tier 1 prescribing, with a decrease in tier 2 and 3 prescriptions. Fischer et al estimate that this would result in an $845,000 savings per 100,000 patients, based on the assumption that each patient filled one prescription per month.
I love saving money, but what was the cost of saving money? According to the authors, “government estimates of approximate first year costs were $3000 per prescriber.” In the study, Blue Cross Blue Shield supplied the software to the physicians, along with a free wireless device, access to a secure Web portal, licensing and wireless carrier. So, the cost was not borne by the participating physicians.
I think as a first step toward an EMR, e-prescribing makes sense. I do not think that every insurance company should provide physicians with it’s wireless device. Can you imagine, five different devices for five different insurance companies?!
So what is to be done? The federal government must mandate one SINGLE e-prescription system that we all should use, and insurance companies should bear the cost, based on percentage of patients enrolled in each plan. Why should health insurance plans pay? Because they are the ones that will enjoy the savings! I think this would be an effective way to usher in the beginnings of an EMR. Mr. Obama and Mr. Daschle, are you listening?
As physicians, we must look for ways that we can use e-prescribing efficiently and effectively. We must commit to learning all the bells and whistles, and using it to our advantage. So, stop hiding behind your prescription pad, and make way for what is inevitable. Get out there and lobby for what should be done, rather than whining when we get handed the bill for something that will most benefit the health insurance industry!