Chapel Hill, NC—Patients are more likely to fill and pick up an electronic prescription for dermatologic medications than one written on paper.

That’s according to a new study published online by JAMA Dermatology, which looked at data from a large, urban county health system to measure primary nonadherence, i.e., not filling and picking up all dermatologic prescriptions within 1 year of the prescription date.

The study team, led by University of North Carolina Chapel Hill researchers, also sought to determine whether electronic prescribing affected primary nonadherence, which can lead to less desirable clinical outcomes.

For the study, researchers reviewed the medical records from January 2011 to December 2013 of a group of new patients who were prescribed dermatologic medication at a single, urban, safety-net hospital outpatient clinic in Texas.

Overall, 4,318 prescriptions were written for 2,496 patients, with 803 patients having electronic prescriptions sent and 1,693 receiving written paper prescriptions. Of those, 75.4% were filled and picked up.

The patient-level rate of primary nonadherence was determined to be 31.6%, with the risk of primary nonadherence 16% lower among patients given electronic prescriptions.

“Although it may seem intuitive that primary adherence would increase by removing the patient from the prescription-to-pharmacy routing process, few studies have compared primary nonadherence of patients given traditional prescriptions versus e-prescriptions,” explained lead author Adewole S. Adamson, MD, MPP.

In terms of demographics, primary nonadherence rates dropped after patients turned 30 years of age, but increased again among patients aged 70 or older. Hispanic patients, who made up nearly half of the study group, had the highest full-adherence rates of any racial/ethnic group.

“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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