Hand Writing Prescriptions is the Old Fashioned WayYou’ve been handwriting prescriptions for years, and it’s worked pretty well for you. It takes only 10 or 20 seconds to dash off a script; nobody has sued you over anything you’ve prescribed; and you don’t have to mess with a computer while seeing patients.
Still, pharmacy calls are driving your staff crazy, and once in a while, a pharmacist notifies you about a potential drug interaction. So you wonder whether electronic prescribing software might protect patients from harm, and whether it could make your office more efficient.
Massachusetts Providers see Major Benefits From Prescribing Technology
Studies show that e-prescribing does in fact improve patient safety. For example, in 2003, three Massachusetts health plans gave e-prescribing software licenses and PDAs to 3,400 physicians and nurses. In 2007, with the aid of computerized drug/drug and drug/allergy alerts, the collaborative’s providers wrote nearly 5 million electronic prescriptions — and changed 104,000 of them because they were potentially harmful.
The Henry Ford Medical Group in Detroit had a similar experience in early 2005, when the group started piloting a standalone e-prescribing software program. By July of the next year, 600 of its 800 doctors had access to it. During that period, more than 98,000 prescriptions — including 7,300 that might have caused drug allergies — were changed or canceled as a result of automatic alerts. Three-quarters of Henry Ford’s doctors say prescription management software improves the quality of care and makes patient care safer.
Reluctant Provider Becomes a Believer in new Technology
Solo family practitioner Allen Warrington of Wilmington, Del., has found that e-prescribing gives him more accurate medication lists, his office manager and wife, Deborah Warrington, notes. Two-way online connectivity with pharmacies — now available with most chain stores and some independent pharmacies — reveals whether patients are refilling their prescriptions, and whether it’s time to call them back into the office for a blood test.
After a year of using Rcopia, the electronic prescribing program from DrFirst, for free, (courtesy of Delaware Blue Cross and Blue Shield), the Warringtons have decided to subscribe. “There’s no question that it’s better, more accurate care,” Deborah Warrington says.
The Cost of E-prescribingThat’s all very nice, you say, but what will electronic prescribing cost me, and how will I recoup that investment?
“Standalone” programs — those that aren’t part of an EMR system — are not expensive. For example, DrFirst, which hosts its Rcopia, e-prescribing software on the Web, charges $799 per physician, per year for use of the program and a service that includes online connections to pharmacies and regularly updated formulary and drug databases.
Many Practices are Already Set-up to Transform Their Office
Many practices already have most of the computer equipment they need for e-prescribing. While standalone programs are usually designed for PDAs, they can also be used on desktops, laptops, and tablet PCs. So if you want to use the desktop that’s already in your office and write prescriptions on it at the end of visits, that’s perfectly OK.
A wireless network is essential if you’re going to prescribe on a PDA or a laptop while in the exam room. The cost of a wireless setup ranges from about $70 for a home-style system to a few hundred dollars for one designed for small businesses. Larger offices will have to spend more to deploy extra access points.