Electronic prescriptions are associated with a lower rate of primary nonadherence to medications compared to paper prescriptions, according to a new three-year study published in JAMA Dermatology.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center sought to gain a better understanding of the common and pervasive problem of primary nonadherence. They conducted a retrospective review of medical records from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2013, on patients prescribed dermatologic medications at a single, urban, safety-net hospital outpatient dermatology clinic. 

Related Articles

A total of 4,318 prescriptions for 2,496 patients (mean age, 47.7 years; 849 men, 1647 women) were written. Analysis showed that the overall primary nonadherence rate was 31.6% (n=788). A multivariable analysis demonstrated the risk of primary nonadherence was 16% lower among patients given an electronic prescription (15.2%) than patients given a paper prescription (31.5%). 

The researchers also noted that primary nonadherence decreased with age but increased in patients aged 70 and over (<30 y, 38.9%; 30-49 y, 35.3%; 50-69 y, 26.3%; and >70 y, 31.9%). Nonadherence was highest for patients given 4 or 5 prescriptions, 39.8% and 38.1%, respectively. For patients given 1,2 or 3 prescriptions, rates were 33.1%, 28.8%, and 26.4%, respectively.

The authors conclude that their study demonstrates a direct link between e-prescribing and reduced rates of primary nonadherence. They added that it is important to understand how patients are affected as the health care system transitions from paper to directly routed e-prescriptions, and call for steps to be taken to better understand why nonadherence occurs.

For more information visit JAMAnetwork.com.