Keeping e-Prescribing Within Arm's Reach

April 11, 2013
I spoke with Joy Grossman, M.D., earlier this week on her recent electronic prescribing study with the Center for Studying Health System Change. I was initially puzzled by one of the main findings that a chunk of doctors (23.1 percent) who had e-prescribing in their practices used it only occasionally or not at all. And one step further, fewer than a quarter of doctors with systems that have advanced functions—identifying potential drug interactions, transmitting prescriptions to pharmacies electronically, and checking patient formulary information— routinely used all of them. I wondered why clinicians wouldn’t use a tool they already had that made prescribing a lot easier and helped check for drug interactions.

I spoke with Joy Grossman, M.D., earlier this week on her recent electronic prescribing study with the Center for Studying Health System Change. I was initially puzzled by one of the main findings that a chunk of doctors (23.1 percent) who had e-prescribing in their practices used it only occasionally or not at all. And one step further, fewer than a quarter of doctors with systems that have advanced functions—identifying potential drug interactions, transmitting prescriptions to pharmacies electronically, and checking patient formulary information— routinely used all of them. I wondered why clinicians wouldn’t use a tool they already had that made prescribing a lot easier and helped check for drug interactions.

Grossman’s answer to my question was eye-opening. “When physicians find this functionality useful, it’s a kind of cost-benefit,” she says. “If they find it valuable, and the value is worth the time it takes them to do it, they will do it. But if it turns out that it’s not worth the time to them, they’re not going to use it.”

Grossman makes a salient point, and I realized it applies to a lot of things in our lives—in our hyper-stimulated worlds, where our time is extremely limited and we have lots to do, we’re not going to use technology unless it is quick and easy and makes are lives better. Case in point: I have a habit of getting music from my good friend Ken via a USB drive. The act of connecting the USB drive to my PC wasn’t difficult at all, but when I had to import the files to iTunes by individually cracking open every album folder (many times Ken was generous and would give me upwards of 20 albums), the task was tedious, and I would put it off. When iTunes 9 enabled a new automatic import function that allowed you to drag a number of folders at once into an “automatically add to iTunes” folder, it made my music downloading a breeze instead of a tiresome task I used to avoid.

If vendors can support improved physician workflow by allowing physicians to click three times instead of 13, then it’s natural to assume more docs would be e-prescribing and using its advanced functionality. Healthcare organizations can also be a part of this process by customizing their own solutions based on clinician feedback to put the tools their docs use most within arm’s reach.

For more of my interview with Joy Grossman, click here.

 

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