Pharmacy Direct

Written by Patricia Tunstall
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With access to tens of thousands of pharmacies across the United States, ePrescribing companies offer technology that permits direct communication between physicians and pharmacists. With superior accuracy in prescription writing, most of the more than 150 million annual calls from pharmacists to physicians for clarification of prescription information should be eliminated. Communication would then be via networked electronic systems that provide an instant exchange of information.

Presently, physicians who have ePrescribing capabilities can either print a prescription in their offices or send it directly to a pharmacy that the patient prefers. Once again, direct access through electronics saves time for all parties. Future ePrescribing infrastructures will be even more sophisticated, but medication errors will not be eliminated by this technology alone, because there are other problems with the current system.

Drugs and Codes

The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 is the result of recognition of widespread problems in the medication prescribing area. Aside from misread prescriptions, the drug codes themselves are not standardized, which also makes prescribing medication prone to errors. Script codes most commonly used are those established by the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP). One concern is that the NCPDP has different propriety codes for each unique product for every drug manufacturer.

The end result is that a product as simple as aspirin has several different codes because of different dosages or number of pills per package. A different brand of aspirin would have its own set of codes. The new Medicare law is an important attempt at standardizing many aspects of prescribing, drug codes being one of them.

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