Electronic prescribing helps doctors make lower-cost choices

Patient Safety Monitor Insider

December 10, 2008

Two Massachusetts health plans released a study showing that physicians using hand-held electronic prescribing devices were more likely to make lower-cost prescription choices than doctors using paper pads, reports The Boston Globe Health Blog. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Tufts Health Plan rolled the e-prescribing system out in 2003 and designed the system so that doctors could easily see how much each medication that they could prescribe would cost. Medications were given designated colors: green for generic medications which that were cheapest and had the smallest co-payments, blue for the next tier of medications which that cost more and had a higher co-payments, and red for the next tier of medications which that cost the most, had the highest co-payments, but were also available generically.

The study lasted 18 months and during that time, physicians using the e-prescribing technology were 3.3% more likely to prescribe generic medications than those physicians using a prescription pad. This equaled 70 cents per patient.

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