New Electronic Medication Refill Systems Could Save Time, Money

System improves commination between primary care providers and pharmacists.

A recent study found that an electronic medication refill system could save both time and money, as well as increase communication between pharmacists, primary care providers (PCPs), and patients in an accountable care setting.

Current refill systems require outdated forms of communication via faxes and phone calls from pharmacies to a medical group. A study published in the Journal of Managed Care & Specialty Pharmacy found the Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group’s (SRSMG) electronic medication refill system is able to improve productivity and streamline communication between PCPs and pharmacists.

SRSMG includes more than 450 physicians, 7 hospitals, 2 medical groups, a health plan, and other aspects of patient care. It has been using electronic health records (EHRs) for 9 years, and it also e-prescribes to all pharmacies.

All electronic refill submissions are managed in a queue that can also receive requests from the patient portal, where patients themselves can request refills. Approximately 80% of refill requests coming through for enrolled PCPs are being handled by the pharmacy team, the researchers wrote.

Once a request is received, the pharmacy team reviews a patient’s previous visit history, laboratory results, and vital signs. The team also takes care of medication reconciliation and dosage adjustment, in addition to coordinating the distribution of medications from external mail orders and retail pharmacies, according to the study.

PCPs said in the study that this refill system included protocols that they had not used themselves. The number of refill requests coming in increased from 138,472 in 2013 to 302,592, resulting in 61,887 and 140,350 authorized refills, respectively.

This system was also found to save time since the refill system was focused on only the medication aspect rather than disease management, according to the study.

Researchers found that the SRSMG system saved between 20 to 30 minutes of time per physician per day. If the salary of the PCP is approximately $200,000, this would result in $33 to $50 saved per physician per day, according to the study.

The system was also found to save money regarding how many refill tasks and faxes were sent by clinical staff. Through electronic medication refill systems such as the system created by SRSMG, time and money can be saved and can allow patients to have more invested in their healthcare, the study concluded.