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Generic medication prescription rates after health system-wide redesign of default options within the electronic health record

JAMA Internal Medicine June 1, 2016

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PAIR Center Research Team

Headshot of Scott Halpern

Scott Halpern


Kevin G. Volpp


The growing adoption of the electronic health record (EHR) brings new opportunities to improve physician decision making toward higher-value care.1 Default options, or the conditions that are set into place unless an alternative is actively chosen, have been shown to influence decisions in many contexts.2 However, the effectiveness of different ways of implementing defaults has not been systematically examined in health care, and many people may assume that changing defaults is a one size fits all intervention that will always have the same effect.2 In prior work, changing the design of EHR medication display defaults for internal medicine physicians increased generic prescribing rates by 5.4 percentage points.3 In that intervention, the process of searching for a brand-name medication changed from displaying a list of brand-name options followed by their generic equivalents to displaying only generic-equivalent options. To view brand names, a physician had to click on another tab. In November 2014, the University of Pennsylvania Health System implemented a different change in EHR defaults among all specialties across the entire health system. Instead of changing EHR display defaults, an opt-out checkbox labeled “dispense as written” was added to the prescription screen, and if left unchecked the generic-equivalent medication was prescribed. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of this intervention on physician prescribing behaviors.


National Institute on Aging