Weve all had to see the doctor before on occasion to treat an ailment, illness or injury. In many cases, the treating doctors will issue a prescription that they tell us to drop off at the local pharmacy to get filled. We then take that prescription, which typically has nearly impossible to read text on it, and head to our local pharmacy. There, we drop it off and entrust it to the deciphering pharmacist, who must discern what scribbles that the doctor intended to represent what medications and what dosages. They then carefully fill our prescription and then inform us when we can pick it up and pay for it. This has been the standard formula for prescriptions for countless decades in the United States and in most other nations. However, a recent New York Times article suggests that this method is being slowly phased out in favor of more accurate and less time consuming and costly electronic prescriptions. The article cited a study that was conducted by Weill Cornell Medical College regarding the efficacy and safety of doctor handwritten prescriptions, and the findings were rather troublesome.
Shocking Error Rates in Handwritten Prescriptions
The most troubling factor that was identified by this study was that there were plenty of errors found in handwritten doctor prescriptions. The study demonstrated that for every 100 prescriptions that were written by hand, there were 37 errors that were identified. By comparison to electronics prescriptions, the numbers were much higher; electronic prescriptions only demonstrated seven errors per 100 written. The study also concluded that prescriptions that are illegible were not considered, of which, the study noted, there were an average of 88 issues of poor penmanship leading to a phone call from pharmacist to the doctor to clarify the prescription. According to the Institute of Medicine ADEs (adverse drug events) that culminate due to prescribing errors actually cost taxpayers an estimated $2 billion annually, and result in untold deaths or medical complications for patients.
Electronic Prescribing Becoming More Prevalent
According to the same New York Times article, only an estimated 36 percent of all U.S. doctors were using electronic prescribing methods as of 2011. While some doctor offices might be held back by the associated cost of updating their computer systems and adding the necessary components to enable electronic prescribing, the benefits far outweigh the cons. While upfront costs can be offset by tax breaks and stimulus benefits offered by the federal government, they are still high enough that many doctors are putting off such much needed upgrades. In contrast, as the technology for electronic medication prescribing becomes more refined and affordable, newer service providers are leaping into the mix that are offering lower upfront costs for implementation. Over the course of just a year, a doctors office can save considerable amounts of money and further reduce liability risk by using an electronic prescribing method in place of a static one. In the near future, dont be surprised, or alarmed, if the doctor you see uses a computer to send your prescription directly to the pharmacy, where its filled, ready and waiting for you by the time that you arrive to pick it up.