MONDAY, Sept. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Linking doctors' offices with pharmacies via electronic health records improves the number of patients who follow doctor's orders on medications for chronic illnesses, a new study suggests.

The research included more than 12,00 men and women who were given new prescriptions for diabetes, blood pressure or cholesterol medications over a period of 18 months.

All of the patients were patients at Kaiser Permanente Colorado, where the pharmacy and doctor's offices are all part of the same system and are linked using electronic medical records. Medication orders are sent electronically, rather than using traditional paper scripts.

Previous research has found that up to 22 percent of patients in healthcare systems not integrated with pharmacies fail to fill new prescriptions.

But the new study found that only 7 percent of the Kaiser patients neglected to fill their prescriptions for blood pressure medication, while 11 percent failed to pick up new prescriptions for diabetes medications and 13 percent did not pick up cholesterol medication.

The study is published online Sept. 6 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

"Given that adherence to medications is directly associated with improved clinical outcomes, higher quality of life and lower health care costs across many chronic conditions, it is important to examine why some people never start the medications their doctors prescribe," the study's lead author Marsha Raebel, an investigator in pharmacotherapy with the Kaiser Permanente Colorado Institute for Health Research, said in a Kaiser news release.

More information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides more information on taking medications.