Research Article

Prescribing costs when computers are used to issue all prescriptions.

BMJ 1989; 299 doi: (Published 01 July 1989) Cite this as: BMJ 1989;299:28
  1. J. B. Donald
  1. Howden Health Centre, Livingston, West Lothian.


    The aim of the study was to see whether the use of a computer to issue prescriptions in conjunction with a computerised, customized drug formulary affects prescribing costs. Data on prescribing costs were obtained from the Scottish Prescription Pricing Bureau for 1978-87. A microcomputer system was introduced into the practice in 1983 and used initially to issue repeat prescriptions, but from 1985 onwards a new system was added to issue all prescriptions; a personal computerised drug formulary was developed in 1983. Personal prescribing costs before and after computerisation were compared with those of the other partners and those of the Lothian Health Board and Scotland combined. The prescribing costs of the partners and Lothian Health Board and Scotland combined increased almost linearly in line with inflation from 1978 to 1987. Personal prescribing costs increased steadily until 1983, when repeat prescriptions were issued by computer, and remained static for a year. Thereafter they increased steadily until 1985, when all prescriptions were issued by computer, and then showed a steady and sustained fall. Personal prescribing costs were 21.5% lower than those of the partners in 1986 and 29.5% lower in 1987. Prescribing costs were reduced when a computer was used to issue all prescriptions in conjunction with a personal, computerised formulary.