Remember when you used to walk into your schoolroom when you were an elementary school student and you were greeted by a handwriting exercise on your desk? You would sit down, grip your pencil and slowly trace the letters in print – and cursive as you got older – before trying to do it freehand.
Most kids got the hang of it eventually, but there was always one kid who just had awful handwriting no matter how many exercises they completed. And someone normally made a joke about how they were destined to be a doctor because of it. Today – those students are grateful for e-prescribing.
While more goes into being a doctor than bad handwriting – it does seem to be a doctor staple. Just think of the last time you received a prescription and you stood outside your appointment for ten minutes trying to decipher what it said. Or when you picked up your prescription, and the pharmacist made a joke about how it would have been ready faster, but they needed to call your doctor to confirm what was written on the prescription.
This is where e-prescribing comes in. E-prescribing allows your doctor to send prescriptions electronically to your pharmacist.
State by State
Once viewed with skepticism, e-prescribing is legal in all 50 states and many require it as it helps to combat Medicaid fraud and drug abuse.
More states and agencies were willing to adopt e-prescriptions when the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) gave practitioners the option to electronically transmit prescriptions for Schedule II-V controlled substances – about 11 percent of all prescriptions. Pharmacies were also permitted to receive, dispense, and archive electronic prescriptions.
New York, Minnesota, and Maine require e-prescribing while California, Missouri, and Vermont are considering similar legislation. Massachusetts, Ohio, and Texas are in the midst of similar discussions.
In 2007, almost no physicians had recorded ever transmitting an e-prescription. Now, over 70% have transmitted at least one according to the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).
More than doctor’s scrawl
When most people think of e-prescriptions, they breathe a sigh of relief at not having to decipher their doctor’s scrawl or asking their pharmacist to. But there’s more e-prescribing benefits than that. Here are a few of them:
- Helps to prevent errors filling prescriptions
E-prescribing limits the likelihood of an error occurring due to handwriting or a miscommunication. Many drugs are similar sounding or have similar spellings. With e-prescribing, the pharmacist is looking at a computer screen rather than a handwritten prescription or listening on the phone. Not having to decipher handwriting or a hurried call limits the possibility of an error. E-prescribing also allows pharmacists and physicians to see a client’s drug history. A pharmacist can easily compare what is being prescribed to what has been prescribed in the past.
- Instant notification of issues with a drug
When clinicians are using e-prescribing to prescribe a drug to their client, they immediately have access to all of their records. They don’t need to rely on the client’s knowledge or paper records to check for allergies or a list of other drugs the client is taking. The clinician can easily see if the drug they want to prescribe will cause an allergic reaction or interact poorly with a current drug. It will also check the client’s medical history for any pediatric, pregnancy, and geriatric issues that would prevent a client from taking a certain drug.
- Monitor prescription of controlled substances
With recent drug epidemics like the opioid crisis, clinicians and pharmacists are heavily monitoring the prescriptions of controlled substances. E-prescribing makes it easier to monitor these prescriptions and see how many a client has received. This limits the likelihood of over-prescribing or doctor-shopping. It’s harder for people to copy prescriptions and abuse controlled substances.
- Increases efficiency
Using e-prescribing improves your business process. It allows you to verify insurance faster and choose drugs that are covered by the client’s insurance. Because prescriptions are automatically sent to a pharmacy and filled, it increases the likelihood that clients will take their prescriptions for the recommended amount of time rather than forgetting or choosing not to drop their prescriptions off and not take them. Your staff is also spending less time responding to refill requests as providers are able to authorize and transmit refills quickly and easily.
Don’t forget to consider these factors
There are a multitude of benefits to including e-prescribing in your business process, but there are also things to consider.
Implementing new technology is costly.
You’ll need to set aside time and funds to implement the technology, and also train your staff on how to transition and work with it. Lack of financial support is a barrier for many looking to start using e-prescribing. If you’re struggling to get financial support, consider using the benefits listed above to build your case for making the financial investment in e-prescribing.
There may be errors as you’re adjusting to the new system.
Technology solves a lot of problems, but it’s not perfect. It will limit the likelihood of errors, but it won’t completely eradicate them. You also may see an increase in errors as your team is adapting to the new system. This is why it’s important to take the time to train your employees and answer any questions that may arise as they are adjusting.
Make sure you consider the legal side.
You’re working with private health information (PHI) and you want to make sure that you’re handling your data appropriately. Have additional conversations with your clients and your team about how to avoid privacy breaches while using this new system. When looking at e-prescribing software systems, make sure to ask how they protect PHI and how they recommend training your staff to protect information using the new technology.
Avoid doctors’ scrawl – go with e-prescribing
E-prescribing can improve your current business process and your clients’ user experience. Take the time to consider it and see how it could work for you.