prescription medicine
Medical Research

Paper or Electronic: Which Kind of Prescription is Better?

The way a dermatology prescription is written – paper or electronic – can influence whether a patient fills it and picks it up, according to a researcher from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

In the study, published in JAMA Dermatology, Adewole S. Adamson, MD, assistant professor of dermatology, used data from a dermatology clinic in a large urban county health system in Texas to measure primary nonadherence, which is defined as not filling up and picking up all prescriptions within one year of the prescription date. Medication nonadherence is associated with poorer clinical outcomes, yet there weren’t many studies prior to Adamson’s studies that looked at factors influencing nonadherence in dermatology, he said.

Adamson’s study found that there was a 16 percent reduction in primary nonadherence when the prescription was in electronic format compared with a traditional, paper prescription.

In the study, Adamson conducted a medical records review of a group of new patients who were prescribed dermatologic medication at a single hospital outpatient clinic from January 1, 2011, through December 31, 2013. More than 4,300 prescriptions were written for 2,496 patients. Of those, 803 patients received electronic prescriptions, while 1,693 received paper prescriptions.

Rates of primary nonadherence decreased in patients older than 30, 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,” Adamson said. “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.

“Primary nonadherence is a common and pervasive problem. Steps should be taken to better understand why primary nonadherence happens and how it can be improved.”

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