A retrospective analysis of claims data from Aetna indicates that systems that allow physicians to enter prescriptions electronically on a handheld device that also provides drug information and formulary status have no significant effect on compliance with formularies and utilization of generics. These systems were compared to traditional prescribing methods.

Two study groups were compared: an e-prescriber group and a matched-comparison group comprising physicians not using the electronic system. Advanced Concepts USP, a business unit of the University of Sciences in Philadelphia, reviewed claims paid between 2001 and 2002.

No significant difference was found between study groups, and neither group differed significantly from the overall Aetna provider network.

A review of the data on the use of generic drugs yielded similar results, with no significant difference between the groups. Generic utilization is the number of prescriptions for generic drugs divided by the total prescriptions. Corrected generic utilization is the percentage of claims for generic drugs in instances in which a generic is available.

"Aetna already uses a combination of letters, faxes, and other outreach efforts to its physician members to obtain 83 percent formulary compliance so we should not be that surprised by the results," says S. Michael Ross, MD, MHA, vice president of strategic businesses, University of the Sciences. "Would the results be different for a plan with a lower baseline figure? Perhaps. We look to conduct more studies on this."

SOURCE: ADVANCED CONCEPTS USP

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