Reducing Drug Expenditure with Computerized Alerts


Hospitalists face ever-increasing pressure to reduce drug expenditures without compromising the quality of care provided to patients, and as a consequence, are creating new ways to approach the issue. A recent study published in the American Journal of Medical Quality assessed the effectiveness of computerized provider order entry alerts as one method. The alerts displayed the cost of a high-cost medication alongside a lower-cost alternative.

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Image Credit: Shuttershock.com

“We regularly scrutinize our drug budgets and look for medications that display changing costs/utilization,” says Gregory K. Gipson, PharmD, cardiothoracic surgery and cardiology pharmacist at the University of Washington and lead author of “Optimizing Prescribing Practices of High-Cost Medications with Computerized Alerts in the Inpatient Setting.”

“We were able to identify a few medications that were both high in cost and utilization but had lower-cost alternatives that could be substituted in certain situations,” Dr. Gipson says. “These higher-cost medications also had formulary restrictions for use; however, it was felt that very few people knew about these restrictions or had any idea how much any of these medications cost. In an attempt to reduce unnecessary use of these high-cost medications, we created alerts that informed providers of the cost of both high- and low-cost medications and restrictions for use, and we gave them the ability to convert the order to the lower-cost alternative.”

The study looked specifically at three high-cost medications and their utilization during the year prior to the intervention and compared it to usage in the year after implementation, and it found reduced utilization of high-cost medications.

“Ipratropium hydrofluoroalkane and fluticasone hydrofluoroalkane metered dose inhaler utilization were reduced by 29% and 62%, respectively (P

Overall, they saw this as a success. “This type of interruptive electronic order entry alert containing cost information and therapeutic alternatives is an effective educational tool that reduces medication costs,” Dr. Gipson says. “… This suggests that new computerized alerts can be implemented in thoughtful ways to minimize the interference with hospital workflow and alert fatigue yet still achieve their desired outcome.”


  1. Gipson G, Kelly JL, McKinney CM, White AA. Optimizing prescribing practices of high-cost medications with computerized alerts in the inpatient setting. Am J Med Qual. doi:10.1177/1062860616649660.

Quick Byte

Telehealth Expansion

Image Credit: Shuttershock.com

Image Credit: Shuttershock.com

In 2014, reimbursements for telehealth accounted for less than $14 million out of the more than $600 billion spent through the Medicare program, according to “Integrating Health Care and Housing to Promote Healthy Aging,” a recent Health Affairs blog. But, the authors suggest, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and state Medicaid programs should encourage greater reimbursement of telehealth and other technologies that have the potential to improve health outcomes and reduce costs, especially for seniors who could remain at home. “The shift away from fee-for-service payment toward value-based delivery and payment models represents a key opportunity for broader integration of telehealth,” according to the post.


1. Schwartz A, Parekh A. Integrating health care and housing to promote healthy aging. Health Aff. Available at: http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2016/05/23/integrating-health-care-and-hou.... Accessed May 31, 2016.

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