Transmitting and processing electronic prescriptions: experiences of physician practices and pharmacies

J Am Med Inform Assoc. May-Jun 2012;19(3):353-9. doi: 10.1136/amiajnl-2011-000515. Epub 2011 Nov 18.


Objective: A core feature of e-prescribing is the electronic exchange of prescription data between physician practices and pharmacies, which can potentially improve the efficiency of the prescribing process and reduce medication errors. Barriers to implementing this feature exist, but they are not well understood. This study's objectives were to explore recent physician practice and pharmacy experiences with electronic transmission of new prescriptions and renewals, and identify facilitators of and barriers to effective electronic transmission and pharmacy e-prescription processing.

Design: Qualitative analysis of 114 telephone interviews conducted with representatives from 97 organizations between February and September 2010, including 24 physician practices, 48 community pharmacies, and three mail-order pharmacies actively transmitting or receiving e-prescriptions via Surescripts.

Results: Practices and pharmacies generally were satisfied with electronic transmission of new prescriptions but reported that the electronic renewal process was used inconsistently, resulting in inefficient workarounds for both parties. Practice communications with mail-order pharmacies were less likely to be electronic than with community pharmacies because of underlying transmission network and computer system limitations. While e-prescribing reduced manual prescription entry, pharmacy staff frequently had to complete or edit certain fields, particularly drug name and patient instructions.

Conclusions: Electronic transmission of new prescriptions has matured. Changes in technical standards and system design and more targeted physician and pharmacy training may be needed to address barriers to e-renewals, mail-order pharmacy connectivity, and pharmacy processing of e-prescriptions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Community Pharmacy Services
  • Efficiency, Organizational*
  • Electronic Prescribing*
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Pharmacists
  • Physicians
  • Postal Service
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Qualitative Research
  • United States