Background: ePrescribing systems have significant potential to improve the safety and efficiency of healthcare, but they need to be carefully selected and implemented to maximise benefits. Implementations in English hospitals are in the early stages and there is a lack of standards guiding the procurement, functional specifications, and expected benefits. We sought to provide an updated overview of the current picture in relation to implementation of ePrescribing systems, explore existing strategies, and identify early lessons learned.
Methods: A descriptive questionnaire-based study, which included closed and free text questions and involved both quantitative and qualitative analysis of the data generated.
Results: We obtained responses from 85 of 108 NHS staff (78.7% response rate). At least 6% (n = 10) of the 168 English NHS Trusts have already implemented ePrescribing systems, 2% (n = 4) have no plans of implementing, and 34% (n = 55) are planning to implement with intended rapid implementation timelines driven by high expectations surrounding improved safety and efficiency of care. The majority are unclear as to which system to choose, but integration with existing systems and sophisticated decision support functionality are important decisive factors. Participants highlighted the need for increased guidance in relation to implementation strategy, system choice and standards, as well as the need for top-level management support to adequately resource the project. Although some early benefits were reported by hospitals that had already implemented, the hoped for benefits relating to improved efficiency and cost-savings remain elusive due to a lack of system maturity.
Conclusions: Whilst few have begun implementation, there is considerable interest in ePrescribing systems with ambitious timelines amongst those hospitals that are planning implementations. In order to ensure maximum chances of realising benefits, there is a need for increased guidance in relation to implementation strategy, system choice and standards, as well as increased financial resources to fund local activities.