Over the past few decades, technology has truly revolutionized the way we live our daily lives. In certain sectors, however, things have continued much as usual. Many health care systems have not been updated to reflect the latest advances in medical technology. Basic misconceptions about electronic health records (EHRs) as well as unwillingness to change have caused many health care systems to stagnate. Keeping up with the advances in EHR systems is just as important as continuing education courses in a given field of medicine. Adopting ePrescriptions is just one way that health care professionals can use technology to better serve their patients.
Why is an ePrescription System Important?
According to a 2006 report from the Institute of Medicine, millions of people each year experience adverse drug effects from prescription medications. An estimated 1.5 million of these adverse drug effects are preventable. Errors can occur at several steps in the prescription process -- prescribing the drug, dispensing it at a pharmacy, administering the drug, and monitoring its impact on the patient. Most frequently, preventable errors occur during the prescribing and administration phases of this process.
Although handwritten prescriptions used to be the norm, they often lead to errors. Problems with legibility or interpretation of the prescription may cause the patient to receive an inaccurate dose, the wrong drug, or incorrect instructions on how to take the prescription. An eRx program reduces these errors by automating the prescription process.
What Does an Electronic Prescription Program Do?
In an electronic prescription system, the health care provider no longer writes a prescription by hand, nor does someone fax documentation to the pharmacy. Instead, prescriptions are entered into an automated electronic system. This secure data-entry process triggers transmission of the prescription to the intended pharmacy. The entire process of ePrescribing occurs over a secure, private, and closed network that allows information to remain confidential. Electronic prescription programs comply with HIPAA regulations about patient privacy.
What are the Benefits of Electronic Prescriptions?
There are numerous benefits to adopting an electronic prescription system.
Most eRx systems are easy to learn and user-friendly. Although there is a misconception that electronic prescribing programs are complicated, they reduce errors and miscommunication, resulting in a more efficient system.
No more prescription errors. In many cases, adverse drug effects occur because two contraindicated medications are prescribed. Electronic prescription programs allow physicians to see a patient’s current and past prescriptions. The software also includes information about a pateitn's age, sex, body weight, and previous reactions to medications. The system alerts the prescriber if two contraindicated medications are prescribed, reducing errors. An electronic prescription system can also ensure that patients receive the appropriate dose of prescription medications.
Patients appreciate the ease of ePrescriptions. Non-electronic prescription systems often place an unnecessary burden on the patient, who must remember to bring a prescription to the pharmacy to get it filled. When a doctor decides to ePrescribe, the patient does not have to worry about losing the prescription or forgetting to drop it off at the pharmacy. Ultimately, this improves medication adherence and increases the likelihood that the patient will receive quality medical care.
An electronic prescription system reduces health care costs. Physicians can see which drugs are “on formulary,” allowing them to prescribe medications covered by a patient’s insurance. They can also electronically approve refills, reducing unnecessary patient visits and increasing administrative efficiency.
With the rising costs of health care and errors associated with adverse drug effects, eRx programs represent a cost-effective, streamlined way to improve patient care. Health care professionals simply cannot afford to wait to adopt this essential technology.