Physicians will prescribe fewer brand name drugs and can curb health spending when an electronic health record (EHR) defaults to show the generics first, according to a research study.
The study, led by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine, The Wharton School and the Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics (CHIBE) at the University of Pennsylvania, is published in a recent issue of Annals of Internal Medicine. The researchers looked at four ambulatory clinics (two internal medicine and two family medicine) in the University of Pennsylvania Health System between June 2011 and September 2012 and evaluated the difference in prescribing behavior for three commonly prescribed classes of medications between family medicine and internal medicine physicians. They underwent an intervention where family docs were shown both brand name and generic medication options within the EHR medication prescriber portal, but internal medicine physicians were shown a different display of only the generic medication options.
According to the research, internal medicine physicians had a significant increase in generic prescribing rates of 5.4 percentage points for all medications, 10.5 percentage points for beta-blockers, and 4.0 percentage points for statins. The researchers say this could led to cost-savings for patients and curb spending. Generic medications are cheaper, similar in quality and may actually lead to better outcomes than brand names because of higher rates of patient adherence to generics
"Not only was changing the default options within the EHR medication prescriber effective at increasing generic medication prescribing, this simple intervention was cost-free and required no additional effort on the part of the physician," stated lead study author Mitesh S. Patel, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine and Health Care Management at Penn and graduate of the RWJF Clinical Scholars Program. "The lessons from this study can be applied to other clinical decision efforts to reduce unnecessary health care spending and improve value for patients."