Most of us remember how prescriptions worked in the old days. As you finished up your appointment, your doctor would rapidly scribble on a prescription pad, tear off the prescription, and hand it to you. You’d gaze down at the sloppy scrawl and say a prayer that your pharmacist had better deciphering skills than you did.
While this system worked ok most of the time, there were some problems. Besides being inconvenient, incorrect dosage amounts, potential drug interactions, and a host of other mistakes were possible with the paper/pen system. Electronic prescriptions have changed things for the better. In this post, we look at how electronic prescriptions work for psychiatrists. We’ll examine the benefits and drawbacks of this newer way of prescribing medications. As we close, we’ll review some must-have features to look for in an EHR system that make prescribing electronically safer and easier.
How Electronic Prescriptions Work
With electronic prescriptions, the prescribing psychiatrist uses a specially-designed software program to enter the details of a patient’s prescription and then securely transmits it via a transmission network from their office to the pharmacy. Within a matter of seconds after sending the prescription, it’s received by the pharmacy and able to be filled immediately.
This system replaces the older, less efficient process, which involved either picking up the phone and calling in a prescription manually or jotting the prescription down on a piece of paper and handing it to the patient to take to the pharmacy. With e-prescribing, a psychiatrist simply picks up a tablet or laptop computer instead. Some EHR systems for outpatient practices offer electronic prescribing capabilities from within the platform.
4 Benefits of Electronic Prescriptions
This new way of transmitting prescriptions has many benefits. Electronic prescriptions aren’t foolproof, but they eliminate the potential for many of the common mistakes made when a doctor prescribes a medication, and a pharmacy fills it. Here are four of the top reasons why psychiatrists and pharmacists like e-prescriptions.
1. Improved Accuracy
Although prescribing errors are still possible, electronic prescriptions have been shown to reduce the number of prescribing errors significantly. Electronic prescriptions lessen the pharmacist’s chances of misinterpreting the doctor’s handwritten prescriptions or instructions over the phone.
2. Increased Efficiency
In general, electronic prescriptions are faster and more efficient than handwritten or phoned-in prescriptions. Patients don’t have to take a written prescription to the pharmacy and then wait for it to be filled. With electronic prescribing, the medication can be waiting for them to pick up when they arrive. Doctors or their assistants don’t need to spend time on hold waiting to phone in a prescription. Within moments after submitting an electronic prescription, it arrives at the pharmacy ready to be filled.
3. Fewer Unintended Drug Interactions
Many EHR systems automatically check for potential drug interactions. This cross-check can prevent dangerous medication interactions.
Time is money. Less time spent communicating with pharmacies is more time that can be spent in front of patients.
Potential Problems of Electronic Prescriptions
Although electronic prescriptions offer several benefits, it’s not a perfect system. The evolving technological landscape presents psychiatrists with a new set of challenges. Here are some potential pitfalls you need to be aware of when electronically prescribing medication.
Confusing Software Interfaces
Some electronic prescription interfaces are not very intuitive. With a cluttered array of dropdown menus and data fields, it’s easier for physicians to make simple mistakes. Those simple mistakes can result in an incorrect medication being prescribed or the wrong dosage being dispensed. You can eliminate this challenge by using an intuitive software solution.
Decreased Communication Between Physicians and Pharmacists
Electronic prescriptions have streamlined the process of getting a script from the psychiatrist to the pharmacists. But that increase in efficiency has also weakened the lines of communication between these two critical professionals. Pharmacists may struggle to communicate with prescribers effectively if they have to rely on voicemail messages to clarify prescribing instructions. This issue isn’t unique to e-prescriptions, but it isn’t solved by them either.
Lack of Data Integration
Different medical records programs are often not integrated. A town with two hospital systems may not share data from one system to another, making it difficult to cross-check for interactions from drugs prescribed by another physician the patient is seeing. Again, this issue is also found with traditional methods of prescribing medications, but it isn’t wholly solved with e-prescriptions.
7 EHR Features to Look for When Prescribing Electronically
Not all EHR systems are created equal. While many offer an electronic prescribing function as part of the software, some have more robust features that provide a range of built-in safety and compliance checks. Here are some must-haves to look for when shopping for an EHR system.
1. Prescribe Directly from Your EHR Software
Many EHR software platforms allow you to send electronic prescriptions from within the program. The convenience of this feature cannot be overstated.
2. Multi-factor Authentication for Prescribing Controlled Substances
The added layer of security that multi-factor security provides offers peace of mind when writing scripts for controlled substances.
3. Automatically Check Potential Drug Interactions
Being able to check drug-to-drug and drug-to-allergy automatically can help avoid potentially dangerous combinations of medications. It can also limit the chances of prescribing a drug that may cause an uncomfortable or life-threatening allergic reaction for patients with known allergies.
4. Reviewing Recent Medication History
A robust EHR system should allow you to conduct a thorough review of a patient’s medication history. Being able to reference past treatment decisions and track the types and quantities of medications used in the past can help a psychiatric make more informed prescribing decisions.
5. Estimate a Patient’s Out-of-Pocket Pharmacy Expenses
This feature can be very useful, especially for patients on a tight budget. By estimating the prescription’s out-of-pocket expense, you increase your patient’s chances of picking up the medication. This can also increase medication compliance.
6. State Prescribing Compliance Integration
Staying compliant with your state’s prescription drug laws is very important. This integration features a set of compliance checks based on regulations specific to your state.
7. PDMP Tool for Spotting Prescription Abuse Early
Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem in the United States. Certain EHR solutions automatically integrate into a PDMP database, helping you spot potential prescription drug abuse in your patients quickly.
Electronic prescriptions represent a significant step forward for psychiatrists. They offer a higher level of convenience and accuracy than the low-tech methods of writing prescriptions or phoning them into the pharmacy. E-prescribing will save you precious time while making things safer for patients. By choosing the right EHR software, you can be more efficient and offer a higher level of patient care.
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