June 20, 2012

New Toolkit Helps Independent Pharmacies Catch Up
With E-Prescribing

Washington, D.C.Only 73% of independent pharmacies have adopted e-prescribing, compared to as many as 98% of chain pharmacies. That could put independent pharmacies at “a significant disadvantage for remaining competitive,” according to the Agency for Health Research & Quality (AHRQ) , which has developed a new toolkit to help nonchain pharmacies catch up.

The toolkit is designed to guide independent pharmacists, step-by-step, through e-prescribing adoption. Among its features are tools to:

• Better understand e-prescribing and how it works;
• Determine whether changes or updates are needed to your pharmacy software system; and
• Assess pharmacy workflows to determine whether changes are needed.

The toolset also includes patient flyers, workflow diagrams, and even a formula to help independent pharmacies determine how much electronic prescriptions can save them in terms of sales volume and wage costs.

“Pharmacies can enjoy numerous benefits from e-prescribing,” according to the AHRQ toolkit’s introduction. “E-prescribing will allow your pharmacy to stay competitive with larger chain pharmacies and has been found to reduce the time needed to process prescriptions. Because e-prescriptions can automatically populate information directly into your pharmacy system, you and your staff will spend less time interpreting handwriting and re-keying information. Your pharmacy may also experience substantial time savings from electronic refill requests (i.e., prescription renewals).

“Because prescribers respond electronically to these requests, pharmacy staff members need to make fewer phone calls, spend less time waiting on hold, and often receive more timely responses. E-prescribing can also increase prescription pick-up rates, patient safety, and patient satisfaction, all of which can help to retain customers and grow your business.”

AHRQ also points out that controlled substances soon will be prescribed electronically but only will be sent to pharmacies using certified e-prescribing software systems, and that those will not be able to be converted to fax.

Even though AHRQ is promoting e-prescribing, development of the toolkit followed some research late last year that suggested some problems with the government-mandated process. The toolkit is designed to address many of those issues.

In a survey done by AHRQ, physician practices and pharmacies reported that they used e-prescribing features for electronic renewals much less often than for new prescriptions. More than a quarter of the community pharmacies reported that they did not send electronic renewal requests to physicians, while one-third of physician practices had e-prescribing systems that were not set up to receive electronic renewals or only received them infrequently.

Furthermore, physician practices reported that some pharmacies sent renewal requests electronically, then duplicated requests via fax or phone, even after the physician had responded electronically. Conversely, pharmacies noted that physicians often approved electronic requests by phone or fax or mistakenly denied the request and sent a new prescription.

Other glitches included the need for pharmacists to manually edit certain prescription information, such as drug name, dosage, and quantity because, with e-prescribing, physicians must choose factors such as packaging and drug form. With handwritten prescriptions, those decisions often had been left to pharmacists.

In addition, pharmacists said they often had to rewrite patient instructions into language that their customers could understand.

At the same time AHRQ released the new toolkit for pharmacies, it also offered a detailed version customized to physician offices to try to smooth out the process from that end.

U.S. Pharmacist Social Connect