NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Electronic Prescriptions May Save Billions

April 16, 2004

A shift by physicians and pharmacies from handwritten to e-mail prescriptions could cut the nations health care costs by $29 billion, say experts.

There were 3.7 billion prescriptions written in 2003, of which about 8.8 million resulted in serious illness from drug errors.

  • About 3 million of the prescription drug errors were preventable.
  • About $2 billion in savings would come from reduced hospitals and doctor visits due to fewer prescribing errors.
  • About $27 billion could be saved from medications errors because the system would curb duplications and would also immediately inform doctors of cheaper generics alternatives.

Currently, only about 15 percent of physicians use electronic prescribing. Part of the reason is cost. The five-year cost installing and maintaining such a system is about $122,000 for an individual doctor but falls to about $35,000 per physicals in a large practice of 50 doctors.

Source: Sara Schaefer Munoz, "Rx by E-Mail May Save $29 Billion," Wall Street Journal, April 15, 2004.

For WSJ text (subscription required),,SB108197726191182862,00.html?mod=todays_us_personal_journal


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