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Electronic Prescribing

E-prescribing frees up pharmacists' time and improve patient safety.

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Electronic prescribing—also known as e-prescribing—is the writing and sending of patients’ prescriptions via computer instead of writing the prescription by hand to either give or fax to the pharmacist.

How does electronic prescribing work?

The doctor looks up the patient in his or her practice’s database and selects the drugs to prescribe. The computer may flag any drug interactions and may also suggest more effective drugs or generic versions of brand name medications.

Once the doctor has sent the order, it goes to the pharmacy via an encrypted network. The pharmacist receives the prescription and fills it.

What are the advantages of electronic prescribing?

• Pharmacists have more time for other work such as MTM and patient counseling. It is estimated that around 30% of prescriptions require pharmacists to call physicians for clarification due to poor handwriting.

• Physicians receive fewer of these calls.

• Pharmacists have immediate access to patients’ medical history and can easily view all their medications.

• Consumers are safer due to easier-to-read prescriptions and computer prompts about drug safety and interactions. According to the Institute of Medicine, medication errors are the most frequently occurring error in healthcare and cause several thousand deaths annually.

• Increasing medication compliance because the patient only has to go to the pharmacy once—to pick up the drugs—as opposed to twice (to drop off and pick up) with a wait in between.

• Automatic renewals, which can help compliance and reduces work for the pharmacist.

• Prescriptions are dispensed faster due to the prescription being sent electronically and fewer callbacks.

• A study conducted by Visante for the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) found that electronic prescribing will help prevent some 3.5 million serious medication errors that otherwise would have sickened, hospitalized, or killed patients over the next ten years.

What are the disadvantages of e-prescribing?

• Software is necessary and comes at a cost.

• Pharmacists must learn how to use the software.

• The computer may give a false sense of security; it is still possible to make errors.

• Electronic prescribing cannot be used during power outages and may be difficult in rural areas with poor internet connections.

• Patient privacy concerns.

• Patients may be wary of electronic prescribing, especially senior citizens.

Is electronic prescribing mandatory?

In 2009 Medicare started offering financial incentives for pharmacies using electronic prescribing.

What changes will this bill bring?

It will make a huge difference in the number of e-prescribing pharmacies. According to PCMA it will likely increase the number of prescribers using electronic prescribing from 15 percent to 95 percent in just 10 years.

How does a pharmacy choose an electronic prescribing system?

There are two options for e-prescribing: Standalone systems or electronic health record (EHR) systems.

• A standalone system is the more inexpensive option and is easy to implement. It stores and manages patient data such as medication histories and medication allergies. To use it pharmacies can either download a software package onto their computers or contract with an e-prescribing software application service provider and pay usage fees.

• EHR systems with e-prescribing integrated allow pharmacists to easily access all patient data including lab results, clinical notes, etc. This can allow pharmacists to make a more informed decision regarding medications and patient counseling

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