Electronic Prescribing

Written by Patricia Tunstall
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Electronic prescribing is not intended to replace the current, handwritten procedure with technology for its own sake. Statistics prove the urgent need for nationwide improvement in the medical prescription arena. Reports show that approximately 7,000 people in the United States die each year due to medication errors.

About 770,000 patients in this country are injured because of adverse drug events (ADE) every year. Studies indicate that up to 70 percent of these events may be preventable. These are not just incidents in which a patient happens to be allergic to a new medication. The causes of these events are far more disturbing.

Electronic Prescribing Saves Lives

The bottom line is that the prescribing system currently used by most healthcare professionals is decidedly antiquated. Doctors' handwriting is fodder for comics' routines, but the problem with the system is far more extensive. Adverse drug events are caused not only by mistaken readings of prescriptions by pharmacists, but also by incomplete patient information that is available to healthcare workers.

The results of laboratory tests over the years, for instance, indicate changes in the patient's cholesterol levels, and kidney and thyroid functioning. Recent physical examinations reveal blood pressure changes, and the development of any medical problems, such as allergies. If any of this information is unavailable to a medical professional who is prescribing medication, that professional is, to a certain extent, flying blind. Electronic systems store all this information so it is instantly accessible to these professionals, thereby greatly reducing the chances of medical errors and adverse drug reactions.

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