FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-04-26
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.
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.