TECHNOLOGY: ePrescribing facing tough going

I’m on the road this week so things might be a little backed up here at THCB. So please excuse the unusual publishing schedule, but as always you get what you pay for!

Today I wanted to point you at Manhattan Research’s Mark Bard’s article in HealthCare Informatics on the Economics of ePrescribing. Manhattan’s numbers from their physician tracking study are actually showing some stagnation in the numbers using ePrescribing tools. This jibes with a rumor I heard about the Mass Blue Cross and Tufts rollout of ePrescribing using Zix Corp’s Pocketscript. Apparently getting any physician who wasn’t already one of the hundred or so in the pilot program to use it has proved very hard, and instead of the 3,000 targeted for use late last year fewer than 200 are using it so far. However, Bard remains confident:

    It is clear that electronic prescribing will happen. The only question is how long it will take to reach critical mass, the point at which the next wave of users takes a fraction of the time it took to get the first wave.

But he also points out how the economic incentives to use ePrescribing aren’t lining up::

    One area that remains a challenge when it comes to the future of e-prescribing is aligning economic interests across the healthcare delivery system. For example, there remains a real need to dissect the entire value chain of traditional prescribing and truly understand where digitizing the process saves money, saves time, or improves quality of care. Understanding who benefits, when they benefit, and to what extent they benefit is critical to understanding who should invest and to what level. For example, if the end-user physician receives little to no economic value from digitizing the prescription order entry, why should she pay for this benefit?

In other words, if the savings is at the pharmacy and the drug company benefits from more utilization, why should the providers pay for the technology? The answer is that so far they haven’t.

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