There is enormous potential for expansion within electronic hospital prescribing systems within Europe – a market that is already showing overall growth, according to a survey from analysts Frost & Sullivan.

Their report states that by 2010, the market for e-prescribing is likely to be worth a total of £75.2m, growing by 29% every year, with inpatient e-prescribing taking a majority 70% of the share. However, e-prescribing for outpatients and other non-hospital cases is likely to be less well-developed.

Frost & Sullivan healthcare industry analyst Siddharth Saha said: “The current low size of the overall market is because only a handful of enterprise e-prescribing implementations have been carried out, the rest being several basic order entry systems as part of clinical information systems."

While Germany and France are likely to see the largest amount of development, the UK is also singled out for growth due to the National Programme for IT (NPfIT).

The report highlights the benefits of electronic prescribing, saying that such systems’ benefits include: cost avoidance, improved workflows and reduced medical errors. It notes that e-prescribing tends to accompany increased general investment in IT.

However, some of the restraints identified on introducing an electronic process include significant investment in hardware, software, implementation and training and a reputation for being difficult to implement.

Saha also said that some hospitals needed to do more preparation for e-prescribing. “Hospitals can increase the likelihood of success by understanding and addressing gaps in readiness."

“The organisation has the primary responsibility of developing the content and preparing the pathways and order sets for automation. This requires a process and structure for reviewing and approving content prior to automation, and clear assignment of responsibility and accountability for each aspect."

“Ownership of the clinical content by the medical staff is critical."