Patients are more likely to pick up and fill their medications if they are given prescriptions in electronic format rather than traditional paper scripts.

That’s the finding of a retrospective review of medical records among a cohort of new patients prescribed dermatologic medications at a Dallas safety-net hospital’s outpatient dermatology clinic.

The study, published in JAMA Dermatology, included a total of 4,318 prescriptions written for 2,496 patients—803 patients received electronic prescriptions, while 1,693 received paper. Researchers found a 16 percent reduction in primary non-adherence when the prescription was electronically prescribed.

“This finding represents a 47 percent reduction in the risk of primary non-adherence for patients who received an e-prescription versus those who received a paper prescription,” concludes the article.

According to researchers, primary non-adherence—defined as not filling up and picking up all prescriptions within one year of the prescription date—is a common and pervasive problem that can negatively impact clinical outcomes.

Also See: How medication adherence works

“In this population, it shows that e-prescribing does improve the rates at which patients will pick up and fill their medications,” says Adewole Adamson, MD, an author of the study and assistant professor of dermatology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

Adewole Adamson

Nonetheless, Adamson points out that the study reported that patients with paper prescriptions had a higher proportion of full adherence in the first four days after the prescription was issued, but after that timeframe patients with e-prescriptions were much more likely to be fully-adherent.

“Although this study was not designed to establish a cause, it is possible that having a paper prescription served as a tangible reminder for patients to fill and pick up their prescription in the short term,” states the article. “However, in the longer term, lost or misplaced paper prescriptions could have led to a diminished likelihood of full adherence.”

At the same time, the study reported that rates of primary non-adherence decreased in patients older than 30, but increased in patients who were 70 and older.

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