Electronic prescriptions are an alternative way to get your medication with lower out-of-pocket costs and fewer trips to the drugstore. Here’s how it works and benefits patients.
What Is an Electronic Prescription?
Electronic prescriptions are written medical orders for the patient to take medications. The electronic prescription is an encrypted message that contains all the information needed to safely and correctly dispense medication, including:
• Indications (what condition the medicine is meant to treat)
• Dosage instructions (how much and how often)
• Contraindications (when it should not be taken)
• Special warnings (side effects or interactions with other drugs or foods)
• Drug allergies
Electronic prescriptions can contain additional data such as lab test results, prior authorization requests, formulary listing (tier) information, reference to any related items like diagnosis codes, or procedure codes for billing purposes.
Electronic prescription is also more like e-script or e-Rx. To be accurate, it should be dubbed Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), which refers to the transfer of data among computer systems via phone lines, wireless connections, tape within optical storage devices, or through satellite transmissions.
The common thread is that all information flows electronically instead of on paper. With an electronic prescription, physician’s offices can transmit prescriptions and related patient health records such as allergies and diagnoses between pharmacies and doctors’ offices without the need for fax machines and overnight mail services. This enables pharmacies to have access to accurate information about your health history.
How Does It Work?
Many aspects of electronic prescription are similar to how email works. For example, you can’t simply send out an email without first creating it on your computer and attaching the appropriate software needed for it to be received by another computer.
Electronic prescriptions are also brokered through a central location – either by the physician’s office or the pharmacy’s corporate office – where they are formatted into something readable by each organization involved in filling out prescriptions.
The central brokerage unit will encode these records using standards set by the Accredited Standards Committee X12 (ASC X12) that govern EDI transactions and then route them electronically to their intended destinations. Each healthcare organization has its internal units able to read this information.
Once received, the prescription is filled out based on this electronic data by the pharmacist or pharmacy technician. Then it’s dispensed to you after your co-payment is collected and your photo ID is checked.
The entire process takes about 10 minutes compared to 1 hour for paper prescriptions, which must be sent via courier service to fulfill correctly. Some clinics and hospitals with staffing shortages work with a medical outsourcing company to process these requests.
Why Are Electronic Prescriptions Important?
Electronic prescriptions are gaining popularity because they offer the following benefits:
1. More Accurate Medication Records
With traditional paper-based prescription systems, there is a risk of illegibility, incomplete information, or even lost paperwork resulting in errors during processing. With an electronic system, all the necessary patient data is stored securely in one place via easy access to relevant health professionals.
Hospitals that have turned their processes digital have seen a 2 percent decrease in prescribing mistakes and almost 1.5 percent in dispensing errors. It also increased error-free prescriptions by over 15 percent.
2. Less Time Spent on Paperwork
More hospitals are transitioning to digital-based prescription systems because it frees up valuable time for healthcare workers who used to spend time filling out prescriptions by hand. With an online system, nurses and physicians can enter data quickly instead of writing down medication information on paper documents.
Better yet, the electronic system can monitor how many doses of a certain medication have been prescribed or dispensed, saving an additional trip to the pharmacy to check the actual dosage that was given. This means that nursing staff can focus on other tasks instead of wasting precious minutes looking for lost records or spending hours inputting patient data onto traditional forms during shift changeovers.
3. Lower Instances of Medical Errors Caused by Illegibility
Signatures may not be needed with electronic prescriptions, but the content of the prescription is still important in monitoring and assessing a patient’s treatment. This information helps minimize risks of miscommunication and helps recognize problems such as unexpected reactions to medications or incorrect dosages.
4. Increased Productivity for Medical Staff
When healthcare professionals can focus on delivering quality care rather than worrying about lost paperwork, they are less distracted from their jobs. This means that patients get efficient, uninterrupted care regardless of whether it’s during regular office hours or after-hours clinic appointments.
5. Reduced Cost for Hospital Services
Fewer medical errors save healthcare organizations money because it prevents legal claims resulting from malpractice issues caused by medication errors due to illegible handwriting or incomplete information. It also reduces delays in treatment, which further saves on hospital costs because patients get the care they need more quickly.
Using an electronic system for prescriptions not only saves time but also reduces the likelihood of errors that can lead to legal issues and concerns over patient confidentiality.