Study Recommends Electronic Prescribing to Improve Patient Safety and Stem Prescription Drug Abuse

For Immediate Release: 
Sep 14 2006

Dr. John David Smith
Concord University 304-384-5218

Dr. Darla J. Wise
Concord University, 304-384-5299

Mary Ratliff
Tygart Technology, Inc., 304-346-9984

Study Recommends Electronic Prescribing to Improve Patient Safety and Stem Prescription Drug Abuse

Athens, W.Va. - Dr. Jerry Beasley, Concord University president, announced the results and recommendations of the “Secure Electronic Prescriptions” study, conducted by the Concord University Research and Development Corp. in partnership with Tygart Technology, Inc., a West Virginia high-tech company. Earlier this year, Attorney General Darrell McGraw provided funding for the study from the settlement with Purdue Pharma, Inc. over the addictive qualities of the drug Oxycontin.

“The Oxycontin addiction epidemic can be greatly decreased by cutting off the supply of prescription drugs to people who don’t really need them. Supply is controlled by physicians. Electronic prescribing will help physicians in controlling the amount of Oxycontin available in our communities,” said Attorney General McGraw.

The study suggests that electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) may offer new approaches to help stem the rising tide of prescription drug abuse in West Virginia, in particular the abuse and diversion of Oxycontin. Automating access to a patient’s medication history as the physician prepares a prescription using electronic prescribing tools would empower the physician to reduce doctor shopping and identify when medical intervention might be needed to help a patient deal with prescription drug problems. Furthermore, physicians, pharmacies, and health plan benefit providers are recognizing and affirming that e-prescribing can improve patient safety, streamline the delivery, and cut the cost of health care.

Pilot programs in other states are confirming that electronic prescribing reduces errors and adverse drug interactions, saves time for physicians and pharmacists, and saves costs for patients and insurers.

The study makes three recommendations:

Recommendation 1 – Legislative Action: The West Virginia Board of Pharmacy should recommend and champion legislative action to permit “fully automated” e-prescribing in West Virginia. These legislative changes should be made soon as possible. West Virginia is currently one of only four states in the nation where e-prescribing is restricted.

Recommendation 2 – Enhanced Prescription Drug Monitoring Program: The West Virginia Prescription Drug Monitoring System (PDMS) should be enhanced to facilitate and support data sharing and seamless integration with commercial electronic prescription systems (EPSs) solutions.

Recommendation 3 – Initiate e-Prescribing Pilot: The West Virginia State Government should encourage and participate in a public-private initiative to establish an e-prescribing pilot in West Virginia. The pilot should subsidize the cost of deploying EPSs to 350 to 500 West Virginia physicians and should be implemented as soon as possible. Delaying implementation of an electronic prescribing pilot will prolong the problems of risks to patient safety and increased health costs. This approach will enable physicians to invest in technology incrementally, starting with e-prescribing systems and migrating to full electronic health records in the future.

The study included detailed surveys of physicians and pharmacists throughout West Virginia, as well as extensive interviews with medical professionals, pharmacists, hospital administrators, and state agency personnel involved with medical and prescription drug services.

“Interviews and surveys indicated physicians and pharmacists were positive about electronic prescribing,” according to Dr. John David Smith and Dr. Darla J. Wise of Concord University, who headed the team that evaluated the survey responses. “Over 88 percent of pharmacists surveyed rated the ability to interpret the prescription correctly as a key benefit of e-prescribing. Physicians identified key benefits in being able to check patients’ other medications, check drug information and transmit directly to the pharmacy.”

“This technology offers significant benefits for all the participants in the health care process,” said Mary Ratliff of Tygart Technology, Inc., who managed the study. “Since patients, medical providers, pharmacies and insurers all benefit, West Virginia will miss a great opportunity if we don’t move quickly to implement and promote electronic prescribing.”