PCPs facing e-prescribing challenges

Although primary care physicians are e-prescribing more than before to increase accuracy and decrease costs (see story at right), a new report from SciMedica Group Marketing Research & Consulting has revealed that these physicians are encountering significant obstacles with current e-prescribing systems, particularly in accessing accurate formulary information and prescribing branded products. The limitations tend to favor generic prescribing, which not only threatens the sales of established branded products, but also the growth of new brands. These factors provide the pharma industry with a powerful incentive to help improve e-prescribing systems.

More than a third of surveyed physicians, though, indicated that they believe that the pharma industry should not become involved in e-prescribing improvements, according to SciMedica executives. In contrast, nearly half said that pharma should partner with e-prescribing software providers to ensure the accuracy of information within their systems, and 34.5 percent said pharma should provide grants or loans to install e-prescribing systems.

SciMedica has yet to hear about pharma providing grants or loans to install e-prescribing systems, though. “In discussions with a few clients, they identified several potential legal issues or challenges to providing financial support to a practice in this age of the Sunshine Act,” says Eric John, senior VP, SciMedica Group Marketing Research and Consulting. “In the short term, e-prescribing preparedness on the part of the sales force may be the most effective support pharma can provide to e-prescribing physicians and practices.”

The most striking finding of the SciMedica report, Mr. John believes, is that formulary information – including prior authorization, co-pays, and other “utilization management” requirements – is frequently unavailable in current systems, according to participating physician respondents. Less than half said they have access to formulary information when e-prescribing and less than a third indicated that they have access to prior authorization or co-pay information. Additional factors cited as limiting e-prescribing include the inability to e-prescribe controlled substances, technical difficulties transmitting e-prescriptions to pharmacies, and problems caused by missing or inaccurate patient information.

According to Mr. John, roughly 43 percent of physicians said the cost of their system was less than $10,000, with 20 percent saying it was “free.” SciMedica additionally found that the higher price e-prescribing systems were also more likely to have complete formulary information, clearer menu navigation, and more comprehensive patient information. “For example, all respondents using one particular company’s e-prescribing system reported paying at least $5,000 for it,” he told Med Ad News. “That company also ranked the highest across several e-prescribing software features assessed in our research. In essence, part of the limited formulary access problem is that ‘you get what you pay for.’”

Physicians in the study struggled with identifying short-term solutions regarding making formulary information more readily available, Mr. John says. “Physician responses seemed to indicate a desired arm’s-length relationship with pharma in terms of e-prescribing,” he told Med Ad News. “The longer-term trend indicates e-prescribing systems will continue to evolve, so that even the base option in these systems will be more up-to-date with formulary information. In the meantime, it may be in the pharma industry’s best interest to help physicians identify which systems are most comprehensive in terms of critical features like formulary information access.”

Posted: December 2013

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