By Kayla Matthews, Productivity Bytes
Hand-writing prescriptions can be inefficient and introduce medication error, which can be costly or even dangerous for patients. It's estimated to be responsible for up to 440,000 deaths each year. Some of these mistakes can be reduced with advanced technology, including e-prescribing.
E-prescribing allows physicians and other medical professionals to send prescription information to pharmacies digitally. They also can store data about that RX as part of a larger electronic health record system.
These systems are being adopted as part of a push to improve the safety and reliability of prescriptions, but there are other advantages they can offer.
Here are six powerful benefits of e-prescribing.
1. Reduce Pharmacist Error
Compared to hand-written prescriptions, e-prescriptions are extremely clear in terms of treatment and dosage and require less interpretation on the part of the pharmacist. This can reduce prescription and medication errors. It also can help ensure patients have the most accurate information possible about how a particular drug should be taken.
E-prescriptions can reduce the risk of an incorrect dose, which can easily waste time or even cause harm to a patient in a worst-case scenario. One meta-study found that when practices implemented an e-prescribing system, medication error could be reduced to one-seventh its original levels.
2. Instant Clinical Alerts
In the United States, more than 4.5 million visits to ERs and physicians' offices are caused by preventable adverse drug events (ADEs).
These ADEs can be caused by allergies, interactions with other drugs or treatments, and other factors — like high dosages and chronic use of specific medications. Many e-prescription systems are designed to interface with electronic health records (EHRs) that aggregate information about patients' current and past medical history, including allergies. These systems can then alert clinicians if a prescription may interact with another treatment or prevent them from prescribing a medication that a patient would be allergic to.
Many e-prescription systems also will offer alerts about duplicate therapies, which can help doctors avoid prescribing multiple treatments for the same medical indication.
3. Prescription Fulfillment Tracking
E-prescription systems can help doctors track whether or not patients have picked up the next refill. In this way, these systems can let clinicians know which people are staying on top of their medication and which may have stopped following a prescribed treatment.
With this information, clinicians follow up with patients who haven't filled their prescriptions to help them get back on track. This practice can help to reduce readmissions and ensure patients are following through on courses of treatment that need to be completed — like antibiotics.
4. Increased Prescription Efficiency
Hand-writing prescriptions can be both tedious and costly in terms of time spent, as they often need to be individually drawn up and authorized. With some e-prescription systems, clinicians can automatically refill dozens of RXs at the same time, allowing them more to review them. This can both increase efficiency and reduce the prescription error rate.
Clinicians also can quickly authorize an emergency refill in cases where patients have lost access to their medication. This could happen when someone is traveling and has left their medicine at home.
5. Reduce Readmissions
Every year, there are more than 1.6 million hospital readmissions, and more than 13 percent of them are caused in part by adverse reactions to drugs. Of these, 95 percent were due to inappropriate prescription practices — including failure to consider potential side effects and interactions.
When integrated with records systems that provide access to information about a patient's allergies and drug history, e-prescription systems can reduce errors.
They also can give clinicians better information about potential interactions and side effects that they can use to inform their prescription practices. Clinicians that work with e-prescription systems can expect to reduce patient readmissions, saving both doctors and patients time and money.
6. Cost Savings
All these advantages also can result in cost savings for practices that adopt e-prescription systems.
The benefits of e-prescription — including improved outcomes, increased efficiency and reduced patient visits — have been shown to save practices between $140 and $240 billion over the last 10 years. The amount of money saved may even increase in the future as e-prescription systems advance and as pharmacies grow more accustomed to handling them.
How Practices Can Benefit From E-Prescribing
The prescription process can allow several errors to creep in — in dosage, treatment instructions and even the medication itself. E-prescription systems can help reduce the rate of prescription and medication error by automatically providing clinicians with relevant patient information and by giving clearer prescription information to pharmacies.
The primary benefit of e-prescription systems is in increasing the safety and efficiency of prescribing practices — but they also offer several other benefits. Studies of e-prescription have found that these systems can save time and money, while also improving patient outcomes. That makes it well worth looking into.
About The Author
Kayla Matthews is a MedTech writer whose work has appeared on HIT Consultant, Medical Economics and HITECH Answers, among other industry publications. To read more from Kayla, please connect with her on LinkedIn, or visit her personal tech blog at https://productivitybytes.com.