Electronic prescribing is a replacement of the traditional method used by physicians to manually write down the medications for patient. This application allows health practitioners to electronically send a prescription directly to a pharmacy of patient’s choice. Transfer of information is done over a secure network that ensures privacy of individuals and rapidly connects the physician’s computer to the pharmacy.

E-Rx also allows physicians to access patient’s prescription drug benefits information and their prescription medication history. Now patients can avoid visiting the healthcare facility for prescription refills as electronic prescribing allows a pharmacist to send an electronic renewal request to physicians when patients run out of refills.

Busy physicians can depend on unbiased computers that can maintain accurate and up-to-date drug databases.  This information helps providers to prescribe quickly and not depend on their memory.  This is especially helpful as the number of approved medications continues to increase every day.

Published reports indicate the large number of deaths in the United States are due to avoidable medication errors. Several factors such as illegible hand-writing and incomplete information contribute to these errors that can be eliminated by using efficient e-prescribing systems.  Physicians can streamline the writing of prescriptions by using E-Rx that is increasingly being adopted by hospitals across the U.S.

E-prescribing offers many more benefits-

– This technology improves patient safety and increases the loyalty of individuals visiting hospitals.  A patient feels more secure if he knows that he is attended by professionals that use the latest health technology.

– Electronic solutions include alert systems that inform physicians about patient’s drug-allergy history, diagnoses, correct dose of medicine etc.  The physicians are immediately warned if they are prescribing medicines that can potentially harm the patient.

– Web access to medical history of patients allows physicians to prescribe better drugs.  They can review the information to advise medicines that have helped them recover earlier also.

– Saving of time spent on attending phone calls. A large number of patients call physicians office to seek clarifications or request refills. Staff has to spend valuable time talking to these people and this ultimately reduces the productivity of the office. E-prescribing saves time of staff and also the patient who no longer has to waste time waiting for drugs at pharmacies as prescriptions are sent before their arrival at the point of purchase.

Physicians who are convinced about the benefits of e-prescribing are still not able to adopt it because of cost constraints. A good software system can be very expensive and not all practices are ready to spend this money. In addition to the up-front costs, physicians also have to pay for the training of staff and maintenance of the system. Health care providers also have to spend time in selecting an e-prescribing system and most of them don’t have all the information to buy a suitable product.

Physicians can implement a stand-alone e-prescription system or adopt an EMR system which includes e-prescribing software. U.S. electronic prescribing network Surescripts told a newspaper earlier this year that only 13 percent of U.S. doctors prescribe drugs electronically. A vast majority of health care providers still prefer writing paper prescriptions leading to medical errors and other problems associated with traditional methods.

A report by the healthcare research firm Visante for Pharmaceutical Care Management Association shows that e-prescribing can save the U.S. government $22 billion over the next decade. A large portion of the savings would come from elimination or prevention of medical errors such as patients getting the wrong medicine because a pharmacy was not able to read a doctor’s handwriting clearly. Visante forecasts that e-prescribing will prevent 3.5 million medication errors and 585,000 hospitalizations by 2018.