Anne Osmer Reporting

Have you ever wondered how – or if – your pharmacist can read the seemingly illegible medication written on a prescription you’ve just received from your doctor?  Just how does your pharmacist decipher the name of the medication you’ve been prescribed?

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Ok, usually it’s not that bad – you can sort of figure out what’s scrawled on the tiny piece of paper, and pharmacists are excellent diviners of handwriting – but a movement that’s gaining ground in Michigan will help eliminate questions about written scripts, and more.

Thanks to an initiative launched in 2004 by a collaborative group of employers and insurers, Michigan now ranks fifth in the nation for e-prescribing, or transmitting prescriptions electronically.  Instead of sending a prescription via fax or writing it on a prescription pad for the patient to bring to the pharmacy, a doctor sends the prescription directly to the pharmacist via the Internet.

Why e-prescribe?

A big benefit of e-prescribing is patient safety.  The program alerts doctors to potentially harmful drug interactions with other drugs a patient may be taking.  Doctors are also warned of possible allergic reactions.  To date, more than 423,000 e-prescriptions written in Southeast Michigan have been changed or canceled due to early detection of drug-to-drug interactions, and more than 100,000 allergy warnings have been issued.

And on the pharmacy end, e-prescribing eliminates questions raised by hard-to-read scripts, cutting down on errors and saving time spent verifying medications.

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There are potential cost benefits as well for patients and insurers when doctors are alerted to generic and insurance plan-preferred drugs. Two out of three e-prescribing doctors in a recent survey said they were more likely to prescribe a generic or plan-preferred drug when using the e-prescribing system.

There is convenience to factor in as well, no small matter for people short on time or with sick kids they have to bring with them to the pharmacy.  With e-prescribing, there are no written prescriptions to potentially lose between the doctor’s office and the pharmacy, and the time a customer waits for a prescription to be filled may be lessened or eliminated.  Doctors can renew prescriptions electronically as well, saving time and paperwork.

E-prescribing has gotten high marks from doctors, according to a recent survey conducted by HaldyMcIntosh & Associates for the Southeast Michigan ePrescribing Initiative.  A recent article about the survey can be found here.

The Southeast Michigan ePrescribing Initiative or SEMI was launched at the request of the Big Three automakers to cut prescription costs and improve quality of care.  SEMI’s partners include General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler LLC, Health Alliance Plan, Henry Ford Medical Group, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Medco Health Solutions Inc., CVS Caremark Corp., SureScripts and RxHub LLC. 

“E-prescribing is a real-life example of a collaboration that’s contributing to higher quality and a more cost-effective delivery system in Michigan,” said Matt Walsh, associate vice president of purchaser initiatives at Health Alliance Plan in Detroit.   “We at HAP are proud to be involved as a catalyst and pacesetter in a collaborative program that has proved its worth to members and patients, providers and employers.”

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