Electronic Prescribing: What Is It and How Will It Affect Pharmacy Management?

Posted by Robert Walthall on Sat, Mar, 07, 2015 @ 08:00 AM

shutterstock_163490975Electronic prescribing, or e-prescribing, is simply a way to transmit prescriptions through automatic data entry with software and a transmission network. Ideally, it can greatly reduce prescription errors and streamline the prescribing process.

How electronic prescribing positively affects pharmacy management

Electronic prescribing can improve pharmacy management by:

  • Increasing patient safety

E-prescribing removes or greatly reduces the risks caused by illegible handwriting and incorrect medication information.

In the case of illegible handwriting, electronic prescribing eliminates the errors caused by illegible handwriting and decreases medication errors and liability.

With medication information, Many medication errors are caused because pharmacists don't have access to correct and current drug reference information. Electronic prescribing provides a medication management process called "drug utilization review." This checks patients' current medications for any drug interactions, allergic reactions, or other problems caused by factors like body weight, contraindications, duplicate therapy, adverse reactions, or age. Indications to the prescription can be immediately rectified.

  • Streamlining efficiency and saving time, by:

Reducing or even eliminating phone calls and callbacks to pharmacies

Doctors' offices receive more than 150 million callbacks from pharmacists with questions about prescriptions, clarification, or refill request verification. About 30% of prescriptions (3 billion annually) or 900 million require callbacks. Electronic prescribing software eliminates this need and can prevent wasted staff time and interruption of productivity and workflow.

Streamlining the refill authorization processes

Refill authorizations can be completely automated. The authorization is delivered to the provider's system, the provider reviews the authorization, and then approves or denies the refill. The pharmacy system receives an immediate update.

Increasing patient compliance

More than 20% of paper-based prescriptions are never filled by patients. Electronic prescribing systems speed up the prescription filling process at the pharmacy; patients can also be given freshly updated literature at the time of the filling.

Increasing formulary adherence

Pharmacies can check with healthcare formularies at point of care so that generic substitutions can be made on the spot, reducing patient and system costs.

Electronic prescribing pharmacy management challenges

In addition to the benefits brought about by the switch to e-prescribing, there are also some challenges. These include:

  • Changing management adjustments

New workflow systems will need to be implemented to facilitate the transition from paper to electronic prescriptions. Although the end result will be positive, the initial introduction of e-prescribing can be very time-consuming as the new technology is implemented, staff are trained, and workflows change.

  • Choosing hardware and software

Pharmacists will need to choose the correct hardware and software. For example, should a stand-alone system or one that is already part of an electronic medical record be used? Which vendor? How is the system going to be implemented?

  • Establishing connectivity

Retail and chain pharmacies are already connected to e-prescribing systems, but most independent pharmacists are not. Most payers are also connected, but medications' history, patient, formulary, and eligibility information may be slower to update.

Recent updates in the news

In 2015, the State of New York's Department of Health had issued a mandate that all prescriptions, including those for controlled substances, would be required to be issued electronically as of March 27; this was done in part to address the epidemic of prescription opiate/painkiller abuse. Lawmakers requested a one year delay as of February 11; doctors and other prescription writers (including pharmacists) can already request a one-year delay from the Department of Health.

What's the bottom line on e-prescribing for you, the independent pharmacist?

Although e-prescribing may prove disruptive and expensive in the short term for you as an independent pharmacist, the industry is moving toward its adoption. The end result will be a much more streamlined, efficient, safe and cost-effective process that will save money -- and may even save lives.

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