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How do paper vs. electronic prescriptions affect adherence?

Patients given electronic prescriptions were more likely to fill their dermatologic prescriptions than those who were given a traditional, written prescription, according to findings from a study published online in JAMA Dermatology (Oct. 26, 2016).

“Although it may seem intuitive that primary adherence would increase by removing the patient from the prescription-to-pharmacy routing process, few studies have compared primary non-adherence of patients given traditional prescriptions versus e-prescriptions,” said the investigator of the study, Dr. Adewole S. Adamson, who was quoted in a press release.

During the study, the researchers conducted a medical records review of a group of new patients who were prescribed dermatologic medication at a single hospital outpatient clinic from Jan. 1, 2011, through Dec. 31, 2013.

Data showed that more than 4,300 prescriptions were written for 2,496 patients. Of those, 803 patients received electronic prescriptions, while 1,693 received paper prescriptions.

Findings revealed that there was a 16% reduction in primary non-adherence when the prescription was in electronic format compared to a traditional, paper prescription.

The data also showed that the rates of primary non-adherence decreased in patients older than 30 years of age, but increased in patients who were 70 and older.

“In this study, we demonstrated that e-prescribing is associated with reduced rates of primary non-adherence,” said Dr. Adamson, assistant professor of dermatology at the UNC School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, N.C.

As the health system transitions from paper prescriptions to directly routed e-prescriptions, it will be important to understand how that experience affects patients, particularly their likelihood of filling prescriptions, noted Dr. Adamson.

“Primary non-adherence is a common and pervasive problem. Steps should be taken to better understand why primary non-adherence happens and how it can be improved,” he concluded.

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