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E-Prescribing: What Is It and How Can It Help You?

So many aspects of our daily life can now be done online. For example, many health-care providers can order your prescriptions online for you. Find out what health professionals and researchers are saying about e-prescribing.

In 2009, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) started a program to encourage health-care providers to use e-prescribing (electronic prescribing) and electronic health records (EHR) as part of its “meaningful use” of health records. Meaningful use refers to using electronic health-related information in a meaningful way to exchange data as necessary to improve quality of care. CMS has EHR standards, which include e-prescribing, that Medicare providers must comply with if they use this technology.

What is e-prescribing?

E-prescribing (also known as eRx) is a way doctors can send prescriptions to your pharmacy so they can be ready for you to pick up, according to CMS.

What are the advantages of e-prescribing?

Besides the convenience of saving you time, since the prescription may be ready by the time you get to the pharmacy, CMS notes a few other advantages to e-prescribing:

  • An e-prescription is generally easier to read than a hand-written one, so pharmacists can avoid misunderstanding which prescription drug to give you.
  • Your doctor typically has access to your medical records and medication history when writing your e-prescription.
  • Your doctor may be able to prescribe a medication for you that your health insurance/prescription drug plan covers, since she may have access to that information. This could save you money.
  • E-prescribing can get you your medications faster, because it might eliminate some of the faxing or phoning between your doctor’s office and the pharmacy.
  • When used alongside electronic medical records, e-prescribing can result in better coordination of care, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

A study on prescribed opioid drugs at Johns Hopkins found that more prescription errors occurred when written by hand than through e-prescribing. Another Johns Hopkins study, this one involving psychiatric medications, had similar results. However, a researcher at the medical school noted that mistakes can still happen with e-prescribing.

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