Prescription Services

Written by Patricia Tunstall
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Physicians who were surveyed said they consider the cost of purchasing and installing ePrescribing technology the most important barrier to wider implementation. Clearly, this works against the spread of electronic prescribing, which has been shown to cut medication errors by at least 50 percent in inpatient settings. To encourage the purchase and installation of ePrescribing equipment, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has established an "Electronic Prescribing Program" that is intended to deliver patient information to the point of care, reduce medication errors, improve the efficiency of the prescribing process, and control costs of health care.

Federal Government Spurs ePrescribing

The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (the Act) will be very influential in encouraging adoption of ePrescribing among medical professionals. Medicare is essential to the performance of physicians, and the processes and technology they use for their Medicare patients will set the standard not only for these patients, but for other physicians as well. Initial uniform standards for ePrescribing will be issued by September 1, 2005, with final standards established by April 1, 2008.

All prescriptions, formularies, and drug safety information written and transmitted electronically for Medicare patients receiving Medicare drugs must conform to uniform standards no later than April 1, 2009. The information must be exchanged on an interactive, real time basis. Recognizing that cost of implementation is a hindrance, the Act provides incentives in the form of financial payouts, grants, and non-monetary remuneration.

In short, electronic technology will be developed and used throughout the medical field. The systems in use today are the prototypes for future, nationwide electronic systems that will broaden the scope of current systems. Patient safety and care will be markedly improved, and medication errors will no longer plague prescription writing as they do now.

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