Drug Information Systems to generate $436 million in benefits in 2010

October 6, 2010 (Toronto, ON) - Canada’s investments in drug information systems (DIS) will generate $436 million in cost savings and efficiencies in 2010, announced Richard Alvarez, President and CEO, Canada Health Infoway (Infoway). The findings are outlined in an independent study commissioned by Infoway, released today.

Drug information systems are part of an electronic health record. Authorized pharmacists, doctors, nurses and other care providers can use them to securely view a patient’s medications. They also help health care providers to obtain a full and accurate medication history and to catch potential drug interactions before they harm patients. By early 2010, about one in three community pharmacists in Canada used DIS. So did half of hospital emergency departments. Some doctors also used e-prescribing to send or print prescriptions for their patients. Some of the gains identified in the study come from these early adopters.

“Drug Information Systems in place today are already generating significant value across Canada, and that value will increase as adoption of the technology increases,” said Alvarez. “Through access to a comprehensive patient medication profile, DIS enable health care providers to improve care for patients and to save time.”

The study found that drug information systems generated patient care benefits and productivity gains valued at $436 million in 2010. These include:

  • Increased medication compliance: In a national survey conducted for the study, pharmacists said that DIS helped them to work with patients so that medications were more likely to be taken as prescribed (valued at 21% of total benefits).
  • Reduced adverse drug events: Fewer drug interactions and other problems means better quality of care. This helps patients and saved health care costs, accounting for 20% of the overall financial benefit from current use of DIS in Canada.
  • Reduced medication abuse (16%).
  • Increased pharmacist and prescriber productivity (32%), e.g. because pharmacists had to call doctors and other prescribers less often to check prescriptions
  • Improved drug cost management (10%).

“Pharmacists are seeing technology and their drug therapy expertise working in concert to transform the delivery of patient care,” stated Ruth Ackerman, President of the Canadian Pharmacists Association. “By providing health care professionals with the information they need to support their clinical decisions, Drug Information Systems are improving medication safety and effectiveness.”

The findings are outlined in the National Impact of Generation 2 Drug Information Systems Technical Report. The study drew on a national survey of pharmacists, information from provincial DIS implementations, interviews with health care leaders, a comprehensive scan of related research studies from Canada and other countries, and economic statistics. An independent panel of experts reviewed and validated the results. Stronger improvements in productivity and in medication compliance were reported in provinces with more established DIS.

In the national survey, pharmacists rated improved access to patient information, increased patient safety, and reductions in fraudulent medication use as the top benefits from a drug information system. More than 9 in 10 of those who responded reported that patient, physician, and pharmacist/pharmacy technician satisfaction had improved since implementing a DIS. In addition, about 7 in 10 pharmacists said that DIS had improved their ability to detect and prevent fraudulent medication use. Many also indicated that DIS support pharmacists in undertaking clinical roles, such as checking to make sure that patients who move from one point of care to another (e.g. hospital to home) have the right medications or helping patients with chronic disease to manage their condition.

“When health providers have access to the right information at the right time, quality of care and efficiency improves, ” said Alvarez. “We expect these benefits to grow over time as more of Canada’s clinicians begin to use increasingly advanced drug information systems to help them care for patients.”

Canada Health Infoway is an independent, not-for-profit organization funded by the federal government. Infoway jointly invests with every province and territory to accelerate the development and adoption of electronic health record projects in Canada. Fully respecting patient confidentiality, these secure systems will provide clinicians and patients with the information they need to better support safe care decisions and manage their own health. Accessing this vital information quickly will help foster a more modern and sustainable health care system for all Canadians.


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