E-prescription vendors need to up their game

While e-prescription systems can cut the costs and inaccuracies often associated with their paper counterparts, uptake of the technology has been low. A new report from analysts Ovum indicates that, despite the technology’s capacity to fundamentally change the healthcare systems of Europe and America, vendors of the software need to “up their game and improve the design of their systems” if widespread adoption by hospitals and surgeries is to be reached.

The report, entitled ePrescribing brings fundamental change to the Healthcare and Life Sciences Ecosystem, states that a major cause of resistance to e-prescription adoption is that healthcare practices, particularly those in the private sector, believe that current IT solutions “are not sophisticated enough to integrate well with other IT systems.” Report author Andrew Brosnan says that the software’s inability to “mesh seamlessly” with other IT infrastructure is “of great concern to prescribers.” Brosnan also points to high up-front costs and patient confidentiality fears as two further key reasons behind slow up-take, particularly in the US.

“E-prescribing not only delivers cost savings but also improves patient care and reduces the number of prescription errors,” says Brosnan. “It also streamlines the dispensing process for patients and provides practitioners with medication histories, reducing fraud.”

Bucking the European and American trend, Australia has been an early adopter of e-prescribing solutions, beginning as early as 1990. According to the report, 90 per cent of physicians in the country use the solutions, but it hasn’t been a trouble-free process: data quality remains an issue there, thanks largely to a lack of standards. The report finds that Australian vendors should “adhere to the framework for e-health interoperability set for the by the National e-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) if the full potential of e-prescribing solutions is to be realised. NEHTA has published standards catalogues for clinical documents and messaging on its website.

Brosnan further points to a lack of user-friendliness in vendor interfaces as an inhibitor to uptake, saying that these are often viewed as cumbersome by healthcare professionals. These difficulties “increase the time it takes to write a prescription, affecting the value that e-prescriptions hold over paper-based ones,” he says.

The report concludes that vendors must improve their software’s ability to integrate with other IT systems by complying with industry standards. “Improving the interoperability of software will enhance its perceived value to users, enabling the market as a whole to grow. Until these issues are ironed out, widespread adoption of e-prescribing is unlikely to happen,” says Brosnan.

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