Electronic health records (EHRs), now used by 83% of office-based physicians1 present both opportunities and challenges for pharmaceutical manufacturers. These issues primarily exist because there are 700 different EHRs enabled for ePrescribing2 and because of their software, industry standards and regulations are constantly evolving. It is difficult for pharmaceutical reps to manage this dynamic environment because often they must understand nuances between the top 10 EHRs, plus dozens of other systems that vary by specialty and geography.
Rather than “boil the ocean,” brand teams can focus on four areas to unlock the power of EHRs to achieve launch performance and key benchmarks throughout the brand’s lifecycle.
1. EHR Systems Education.
At a minimum, sales teams and help desks should be educated about how to populate EHRs with new drug information, identify new patients for therapy, and maximize practice quality reporting to measure improvements in patient care.
2. EHR Strategy and Services.
Brands must establish ongoing strategies to optimize brand performance throughout the product lifecycle, starting with pre-launch compendia submissions through prescriber targeting and focused efforts to ensure formulary accuracy.
3. Improve medication adherence.
Reps can focus on using EHRs to improve medication adherence. Not taking medications as prescribed has major economic consequences, costing an estimated $100 billion directly to health systems and $289 billion annually in lost wages, premature deaths, and unnecessary hospital and doctor visits. Moreover, pharmaceutical manufacturers are projected to lose some $188 billion annually in revenues when patients abandon prescriptions or do not take medications as prescribed to save money.
As a result, interventions to improve medication adherence should be a top priority for the pharmaceutical industry. Efforts to date largely have focused on free drugs, reminders, or lower co-pays. Making prescribing information more accurate and complete within EHRs can go a long way toward improving patients’ compliance with their drug regimens. While this alone will not solve the problem of medication nonadherence, it is a step in the right direction—particularly with respect to improving formulary and benefit data, upgrading medication history information, and alerting prescribers when prescriptions have not been filled.
4. Improve Patient Outcomes.
EHRs are powerful tools to improve the treatment of diabetes, coronary heart disease, and other chronic illnesses. Pharmaceutical reps can ensure that new drug regimens are made available in EHRs, thus helping practices identify at-risk patients, target interventions, and then follow up with various treatments and medication therapies as part of standardized treatment plans following association guidelines provided by manufacturers. The result: Safer and improved quality of care, an expanded scope of practice, potential new sources of revenue, and measures of practice quality to meet payers pay-for-performance targets.
1. ONC Data Brief No. 28, September 2015. Accessed at https://www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/briefs/oncdatabrief28_certified_vs_basic.pdf.
2. Surescripts 2014 Progress Report.