As New York state shifts away from paper prescriptions, an Albany Medical Center physician said electronic prescribing, or “e-prescribing,” will lead to improved patient safety and a more efficient prescription process.
As of March 27, all prescriptions written in the state must be transmitted electronically from the prescriber directly to the pharmacy.
According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the requirement is a key component of New York’s I-STOP initiative that is focused on helping curb the abuse of prescription medication throughout the state.
Prescriptions will no longer be handwritten or called into a pharmacy for all medications, including controlled substances, except in rare circumstances.
According to state officials, those limited situations include such things as disasters, and technological or electrical failures. In exceptional circumstances requiring written prescriptions, prescribers must still use official state prescription forms and document the reason for use of the paper script each time. Prescribers with waivers are exceptions to the e-prescribe mandate. Patients seeking the best prices for their medications can still comparison shop before asking their doctor to send their prescriptions to their preferred pharmacy.
According to Dr. Patricia Hale, associate medical director of informatics at Albany Medical Center, the benefits of e-prescribing include:
• Lower risk of errors due to poor handwriting.
• Elimination of miscommunication associated with phoned-in prescriptions.
• Prescriptions cannot be lost or fall into the wrong hands.
• Computer programs flag prescriptions that may interact with a patient's other medications.
• Patient convenience as prescriptions are sent to pharmacy ahead of time.
Additionally, Dr. Hale encouraged patients to keep a prescription list of medications they take, including over-the-counter and herbal supplements, and to have that list available when they see their doctor.
"Given the availability of over-the-counter medications and the fact that people often see many different doctors, when health care providers have accurate and updated information about the prescriptions and other drugs patients are taking, the better able we are to deliver safe and appropriate care," Hale said.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Digital securities such as e-prescribing and prescription monitoring promote safe and efficient medication administration that both providers and their patients will appreciate. These policies demonstrate that DOH's priority is always the safety and well-being of patients."
State officials said I-STOP requires prescribers to consult the Prescription Monitoring Program Registry when writing prescriptions for Schedule II, III, and IV controlled substances. The registry provides practitioners with direct, secure access to view dispensed controlled substance prescription histories for patients in real time.
It is available 24 hours a day/7 days a week via an application on the Health Commerce System. Officials said the data is further used to identify potential sources of prescription drug diversion or abuse, including prescription fraud.
Patients with questions about e-prescriptions can access information at www.health.ny.gov/publications/1098.pdf.