Medication errors are estimated to cause several thousand deaths a year in the USA and are responsible for one in twenty hospitalizations (1). Some of the errors are prescribing errors, illegible handwriting, dispensing errors, and omission errors. Drug interactions and not considering known allergies also leads to serious consequences.
Many patients have multiple issues and need a prescription with several drugs. Adverse drug events (ADEs) caused by drug interactions and medication errors are a leading cause of emergency room visits and hospitalizations.
E-prescriptions, or electronic prescriptions, refer to a technology that can eliminate many of these dangers. The software used integrates with the electronic health record (EHR) of the practice to keep a record of what has been prescribed earlier, and any adverse events related to those drugs. It also keeps track of the long term drugs the patient is currently taking. For every fresh prescription, the software will generate an alert if:
The e-prescription will include both the trade name and the generic drug name, preventing erroneous dispensing. The dangers of illegible prescriptions and reading errors are also eliminated. By reducing adverse drug events and related hospitalizations, e-prescriptions save significant costs (2).
The software will learn the commonly prescribed drugs and make it easy to select them. It automatically includes trade/brand names and generic names. The e-prescription gets sent securely and quickly to the chosen pharmacy, eliminating the time and effort used for lost paper prescriptions.
Refills also become more convenient. The doctor can approve or deny a refill request after looking at the patient’s record. Emergency refills even when a patient has abruptly run out of drugs, or is traveling and has forgotten to pack drugs, becomes simple.
Prescribing controlled substances can take significant time when done manually. The Electronic Prescribing for Controlled Substances (EPCS) will be a part of e-prescription software and will make it convenient to prescribe controlled drugs. It also helps to reduce opioid fraud and abuse. These prescriptions are also sent securely to the pharmacy from the physician’s office.
E-prescriptions require effective security and encryption, as they have to be HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) compliant. This Act mandates safety measures for a patient’s data. The system chosen for e-prescription must be secure and compliant with the regulations.
An e-prescription system can improve treatment adherence. The prescriber earlier had no way of knowing whether the patient had actually acquired the medicines prescribed. But when e-prescriptions are used, the filling of prescriptions can be tracked. The system can also send reminders to patients about due refills.
Some insurance programs cover only generic drugs or only certain drugs. An e-prescription software includes drug formularies, making prescribing approved drugs easy. If the patient is not out-of-pocket, adherence improves. These formularies also lead to cost savings for patients, by informing about lower-priced alternatives to drugs being prescribed.
The daily struggle of pharmacy employees to decipher handwritten prescriptions is real. Very often, prescriptions are so illegible that employees have to call the prescriber to verify them. E-prescriptions eliminate the unnecessary delays in dispensing medicines and allow patients to start the medication right on time.
Incomplete prescriptions are also a problem, especially with drugs that come in different strengths and dosage forms. An e-prescription software has drop-down menus that both remind and make it easy to specify the requirement. Some software will not allow the e-prescription to be sent until it is complete. This is an enormous benefit to Physicians and patients since a complete prescription saves everyone’s time.
E-prescribing adds value, safety, convenience, and cost advantages to the entire chain – patients, doctors, and pharmacies. You just need the right EHR and e-Prescription software to get going!
1. Williams DJP. Medication errors. Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh 2007 ; 37 : 343–346.
2. Porterfield A, Engelbert K, & Coustasse A. Electronic prescribing: improving the efficiency and accuracy of prescribing in the ambulatory care setting. Perspectives in Health Information Management 2014 ; 11 (Spring) : 1g. Published 2014 Apr 1.
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