New research from doctors.net.uk has revealed that GPs' use of electronic prescriptions is gaining momentum.
An online survey of 834 GPs in England found that 15% of respondents had already switched to EPS R2, with 25% of those not currently using electronic prescriptions planning to upgrade in 2014. (1)
The research, conducted on behalf of NHS-contracted mail order pharmacy Pharmacy2U, is the first to present a comprehensive view of the EPS landscape in England.
It showed that many GPs have faith in an electronic future. Forty-three per cent of respondents - including those who have not yet switched - were confident that EPS would enable them to provide a more efficient repeat prescription service.
Confusion over patient choice
But the research also revealed confusion among GPs around the introduction of greater patient choice of pharmacy - a key element of EPS R2, as digital scripts remove the need for patients to take a paper copy to the pharmacy.
Almost half of the GPs surveyed (48%) admitted they did not know enough about the nominations process to explain it to patients. And 46% did not know that under EPS, patients have the freedom to nominate any EPS-enabled pharmacy, anywhere in England.
Despite this confusion, 56% agreed that greater choice of pharmacy was valuable because it allowed patients to find the most convenient option for them.
The research also explored the practical issues involved in switching to digital prescriptions; 58% of GPs using EPS had experienced teething troubles when switching. Issues included lack of preparation among local pharmacies (55%) lack of DM&D coding (29%) and lack of training for practice staff (37%).
Dr Julian Harrison, a director of Pharmacy2U said: "It's encouraging to see the increased uptake of electronic prescriptions but concerning that a key element of the service - greater patient choice of pharmacy - is not yet fully understood by the profession."
Dr Donya Young, an early adopter of electronic prescriptions, is confident about the efficiency benefits of EPS R2. She said: "It is hard to see any negatives with EPS R2 once you address the initial preparation and staff training. The patients love being able to choose their most convenient pharmacy - wherever and whoever that may be. It has really helped our staff to improve efficiency at the practice, and being able to communicate speedily and accurately with our pharmacy colleagues has to be better and safer for all concerned."
1. MedeConnect, the research division of doctors.net.uk, surveyed 834 UK-registered GPs working in England to test understanding of different elements of EPS R2. The survey was conducted in November 2013.