As medicine gets more tech savvy, doctors are finding themselves better equipped with technologies that are replacing something as basic but important in medicine as writing out a prescription. An e-prescription is a computer generated, transmitted and filed out medical prescription. Its main aim is to reduce paper prescriptions, and the risk of error associated with written prescriptions.
The main risk of a handwritten prescription is that it may be illegibly written, which might lead to being improperly interpreted by the pharmacist, ultimately proving fatal to the patient. Also, a paper prescription runs the risk of being misplaced or be damaged.
E-prescriptions do not have the risk of being misinterpreted or damaged. Hence, medical records can be maintained accurately. The aim of an e-prescription is electronic exchange of prescription between physician and pharmacies1. This allows the patient’s prescription to be analysed by doctors in continuity, which enables the doctor to know the efficacy of medicines. Pharmacies benefit equally as they will have all the information of particular drug usage, its availability and clinically proven efficacy and popularity.
Research has concluded that electronic prescriptions can reap huge benefits for health care providers and patients. Let’s consider the advantages for patients, physicians, pharmacies, hospitals, medical staff by the use of e-prescriptions.
Advantages for Patients:
- The physician or an assistant typing the prescription takes lesser time than writing the prescription with paper and pen. This also ensures minimal wait at the pharmacies. This allows the pharmacy, some time to acquire the drug in case of unavailability, before the patient reaches the pharmacy.
- E-prescriptions are not sent via internet or email id, but via secure, private networks. Patients can see their prescription on smart phones or personal computers.
- The treating physician can check the medicines under insurance cover for the given patient and hence prescribe cost effective medication for the patient.
Advantages for Physicians:
- It saves time. Lesser calls from pharmacies for illegible prescriptions, etc.
- Time saved in writing prescriptions can be devoted to patients.
- Easy access to patient’s entire current and past drug history, which is helpful in changing prescriptions.
- Reminders from the electronic system can help the physician prevent mistakes in prescribing medicines with similar names2.
Advantages for Pharmacies:
- Pharmacies can check the availability of the prescribed medicines and in case of unavailability send a request to the physician to change the prescription or refill the stock till the patient comes.
- E-Prescription Of controlled substances (EPCS) has significantly improved work flow, accuracy of prescriptions and co-ordination among pharmacists and doctors3.
Advantages for Hospitals:
A study conducted in a public sector hospital concluded that patient information like name, age, gender, address was found in 100% of electronic prescriptions. Prescription errors pertaining to concentrations, quantity and rate of administration of drugs were absent in e-prescriptions.The incidence of prescription overdose was 7-19% in manual, as against only 8% in semi or fully automated systems.
The incidence of prescription overdose was 7-19% in manual, as against only 8% in semi or fully automated systems4.
Thus, e-prescription are a win-win method for everybody involved in the healthcare chain, enabling better communication among physicians and pharmacies, ensuring knowledgeable decision making taken in the best interest of the patient while saving time and money.
Contributed by Dr. Rachita Narsaria
1-Papshev D, Peterson AM. Electronic prescribing in ambulatory practice:promises,pitfalls, and potentials. Am J Manag Care.2001 Jul;7(7):725-36.
2- Galanter WL, Bryson ML, Flack S et al. Indication alerts intercept drug confusion errors during computerised entry of medication orders. PLoSOne. 2014 Jul 15;9(7):e 101977.doi10.3137/journal .pone0101977.
3-Thomas CP, Kim M, Kelleger SJ et al. Early experience with electronic prescribing of controlled substances in a community setting. J Am Med Inform Assoc .2013 Jun ;20(e1):e44-51.doi:10.1136/amiajnl-2012-001499.Epub2013 Apr 5
4- Riaz MK, Hashmi FK, Bukhari NI, Riaz M, Hussain K. Occurence of medication errors and comparison of manual and computerised prescription systems in public sector hospitals in Lahore,Pakistan. PLoSOne. 2014Aug 28;9(8):e106080.doi.10.1371/journal .pone.0106080.ecollection2014.