“E” may be this generation’s favorite letter (besides “i,” of course) — email, e-books, e-commerce, e-cards. So in a society where everything from conducting business to reading a book is done electronically, it’s no surprise that prescriptions have also made the jump from the physical world to the digital one.
Electronic prescribing, or e-prescribing, allows doctors to transmit prescriptions electronically to pharmacies from the point-of-care. E-prescribing was brought to the forefront in 2003 when it was included in the Medicare Modernization Act. In 2006, the first standards were put into place for e-prescribing. The State of New York will require all prescriptions to be submitted electronically starting March 27, 2016. With the second highest number of practicing dentists in the country, this mandate will affect about 8 percent of oral healthcare professionals. Also, in the State of Minnesota, all “providers, group purchasers, prescribers and dispensers must establish and maintain an electronic prescription drug program” [source].
With more and more aspects of our lives going digital, the move to electronic prescriptions seems natural. There are the obvious reasons (speed and convenience) and also reasons that are unique to oral health care providers — security and patient privacy; avoiding multi-drug interactions; fostering better communication between practices and pharmacies; and encouraging electronic growth across the board in oral health care.
- Security and Patient Privacy — It’s important to note that just because there’s an “e” in email that does not qualify it as an e-prescription. Emails are not recognized as a secure way to transmit prescriptions. E-prescriptions must meet HIPAA privacy and security standards, which means they require a username and password for access. Software that transmits prescriptions should be encrypted or encoded to ensure patient privacy.
- Quickly Check for Multi-Drug Interactions — Doctors can quickly use e-prescribing software to confirm that there are no dangerous drug interactions before their patient has even left the practice.
- Communicating with your Pharmacy — E-prescribing gives dental practices and pharmacies direct channels through which to communicate, rather than faxes and missed phone calls. Plus, e-prescribing software can give a practice access to a nationwide list of pharmacies for prescriptions, refill requests, etc.
- Encouraging Electronic Growth — Electronic health records (EHRs) are a discussion for a whole other post, however, e-prescribing is a small aspect of EHRs that can begin to introduce practices to the workflow and convenience that “e” can bring to oral health care.
Electronic prescriptions may have been slow to get started in 2003, but with the prevalence of “e” in our lives (more powerful computers; smart phones; patients that have come to expect care “on demand,” etc.), the time is right for e-prescriptions. It will be interesting to see which state is next to mandate e-prescribing, and I would not be surprised to see e-prescribing become the norm over the next few years.
What do you think? Is your practice ready for e-prescribing? How would you patients react if, instead of pulling out your prescription pad, you sat down at your computer?
Joe Petrovich is the U.S. Director of eServices for Carestream Dental. You can learn more about ePresciptions and other dental practice management services at carestreamdental.com.