Most Americans prefer an electronic prescribing system that lets doctors send prescriptions directly to pharmacies, says a new survey.

The survey found that 82 percent of Americans prefer this kind of e-prescribing because it offers a number of benefits, including less waiting time at the pharmacy, faster prescription renewals, and more time for people to discuss the medicines with pharmacists.

Another advantage cited by respondents was that e-prescribing reduces the chance of prescription errors created by a pharmacist being unable to read a doctor’s illegible handwritten prescription.

The survey, reported by HealthScout, was conducted by Harris Interactive and released at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ (NACDS) annual pharmacy and technology conference.

The survey also found that 60% of Americans visit their pharmacies one to five times a year to fill or renew prescriptions. Another 11% said they go to their pharmacies six to 10 times a year and another 11% said they go between 11 to 30 times a year.

The total number of prescriptions filled in the United States each year has increased 50 percent since 1990. Retail pharmacies filled over 3 billion prescriptions in 2001 totalling $164 billion, the figure is expected to rise to 4 billion by 2005.

In the UK promoting Electronic Transfer of Prescriptions (ETP) forms one of the key pillars of the new national IT strategy. ETP is to be introduced nationally by 2005, and three pilots are currently underway.