A recent study in Australia confirmed what many U.S. health organizations
and officials promote: e-prescribing systems help to reduce a variety
of medication errors. While many healthcare hospitals and clinics in the
U.S. have already implemented e-prescribing and other online medical systems
and processes, the government and organizations like the American Medical
Association (AMA) continue to encourage their adoption. Widespread use
of e-prescribing systems helps protect patients and avoid painful and
costly medication errors.

e-Prescribing Method

Electronic prescribing, or e-prescribing, systems help to automate the
process of ordering, dispensing and paying for prescription drugs. Typically
a physician enters a script in a patient’s record on the e-prescribing
system, which is then forwarded to a pharmacy of the patient’s choice.
The prescription history, insurance coverage and any possible medication
interactions or side effects for a patient are also tracked within the
e-prescribing system. In addition, refills and other authorizations are
managed through the e-prescribing interface.

Australian Study Findings

Researchers in Australia studied the impact of two e-prescribing systems,
Cerner Millennium and iSoft MedChart, in two Australian hospitals. The
study assessed whether the e-prescribing systems reduced procedural and
clinical medication errors, like unclear prescriptions or incorrect doses,
without introducing new system errors. Overall findings indicated that
these systems “significantly reduced prescribing errors, including
serious errors.” The major decline was to serious errors, mainly
due to less procedural issues.

U.S. Implementation Initiatives

According to the AMA, two immediate benefits to physicians and their practices
after implementing an e-prescribing system are time savings and Medicare
incentive payments. Through the Medicare service, the government offers
incentives for healthcare clinics and hospitals to purchase and install
e-prescribing systems. Once implemented, providers can earn one percent
of total Medicare Part B payments for 2011 and 2012. If prescribers do
not use an e-prescribing system, they may be penalized by receiving lower
Medicare payments.

Avoiding Medication Errors

Clinics and hospitals should take care to make process improvements, in
addition to implementing an e-prescribing system, to avoid medication
errors and ensure proper quality control. While it is difficult to entirely
remove the possibility of human error from the prescription process, e-prescribing
systems greatly improve the care patients receive by reducing medication
errors like script illegibility, incorrect medications and wrong doses.
However, some patients may find themselves the victims of painful medication errors.

If you recently experienced a medication error, whether as the result of
prescription or dispensing errors, contact a local medical malpractice
attorney for advice. If the physician was not using an e-prescribing system,
there may be a chance there were procedural or clinical errors at issue
for which you deserve compensation.