Electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) is becoming an increasingly popular way for doctors to prescribe medicines for their patients. This method involves using a special computer program. Using a handheld device or computer terminal, the doctor selects the medicine he wants to prescribe for the patient.
Then, he selects the pharmacy that the patient uses. The prescription is then “electronically” sent to the pharmacy either by fax or directly to the computer at the pharmacy. By using this method, the doctor avoids handwriting the prescription which can be misread by the pharmacist. Also, doctors or office staff do not have to call in the prescription to the pharmacist which can be misheard. E-prescribing is believed to help prevent these types of medication errors from occurring.
When e-prescribing is used, patients no longer need a paper copy of their prescription to take to the pharmacy. They can just go and pick it up. However, because the paper prescription is no longer needed, important information may not be communicated to the patient. The doctor needs to review the name of the medicine, the dose, and how often it should be taken. The doctor should also tell the patient about side effect they may have from taking the medicine. This will allow the patient to ask questions about the medicine. The patient also needs to know how to tell if the medicine is working and when to contact the doctor if there are problems. E-prescribing may limit this type of communication.
To help prevent medication errors when e-prescribing is used, patients should be given written information about the medicine the doctor prescribed. This could be done in a number of different ways. The patient can be given a copy of the prescription as it is written, but it should note that it is a duplicate. This could serve as a voucher when the patient goes to pick up the medicine. The patient could also be given printed material about the medicine, such as a medication teaching guide. This way the patient can learn more about the medicine before picking it up at the pharmacy and verify that the medicine is correct.