Visiting the doctor, picking up prescriptions and waiting for them to get filled at the local pharmacy can be a long and trying process.
But if your doctor is one of the 70,000 or so who’ve trashed their prescription pads during the last few years and begun prescribing medications online, getting the medication you need isn’t such a hassle anymore.
The Growing Advantages of E-Prescribing
As the cost of healthcare rises, lawmakers, executives and some private insurance companies are pushing doctors to make the switch and start writing e-prescriptions.
Going modern, they say, could save consumers, the government and healthcare providers between $22 and $26 billion over the next decade combined—and reduce the cost of drug delivery by more than $800,000 per 100,000 patients.
But money isn’t the only advantage of e-prescribing cited. Out of the 4 billion prescriptions written and dispensed every year, more than 1.5 million people suffer preventable, adverse drug reactions due to factors like poor physician handwriting and improper dosage instructions.
Proponents of digital prescribing claim that nearly all of those could be eliminated with more automated, online prescription systems and the proper software to guide doctors through the e-prescribing process.
Perhaps the biggest fans of e-prescribing are patients, who no longer have to wait in drugstore lines to get their prescriptions filled or worry about losing that little piece of paper with the illegible handwriting. By the time they leave the doctor’s office, their prescriptions are usually filled and waiting for them; all they have to do is swing by and pick them up.
And when their prescriptions need refilling, no call to the doctor is needed. Refills are already in the system, and can be filled immediately.
How E-Prescribing Works
As doctors meet with patients, they often tote their laptops into the examination room with them. When they’re ready to prescribe a medication, they use a secure password to log in to a centralized prescription service containing each patient’s complete personal and medical records.
They simply take a look at the patient’s insurance and co-pay information, look for the most cost-effective treatment, and enter the name, dosage and instructions for the medication required.
If the patient is allergic to a particular medication—or is taking another med that could interact negatively with the one being prescribed—the system alerts the doctor to help avoid drug interactions.
70 percent or more of chain pharmacies and about 40 percent of independents are now equipped to receive e-prescriptions. This makes the process of prescribing and filling medications electronically easier for both physician and patient.
Changes Inherent to E-Prescribing
To entice doctors to join this growing group embracing changing technology, Medicare and some private health plan providers are now offering incentives like payment bonuses, free software and online training to physicians willing to jump on the bandwagon.
In fact, the average doctor working through Medicare can expect to pocket an extra $1,400 to $1,600 this year in incentives for their willingness to e-prescribe.
But some doctors, resistant to change, don’t understand why it’s necessary to toss out old traditions like pen and paper in favor of a newer, electronic system.
Pointing to the inability to prescribe controlled substances online, unnecessary warnings displayed, incomplete patient information provided and the expense involved in full-fledged conversion, they resist change, leaning instead more toward tradition.
Meanwhile, new med school grads, trained in e-prescribing from the very beginning, take it all in stride, learning the process as part of their normal, everyday lives.
The Future of Electronic Prescribing
The move toward e-prescribing is gaining momentum. In 2007, only six percent of doctors were prescribing medications online. That number more than doubled in 2008 to about 15 percent.
Within the next five years, the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) expects that 75 percent of physicians will be e-prescribing.
That pleases both health insurance companies and corporate America, both of whom save money due to fewer health claims and reduced expense. In fact, insurers like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Anthem and Aetna are helping doctors make the switch by providing funding and other perks to those interested in prescribing online.
Though likely to take some time to fully implement, e-prescribing is here to stay. If your doctor hasn’t moved in that direction yet, you might want to encourage him or her to do so. It’ll make his life—and yours—easier!