Electronic Prescriptions and the Path to Preventing Medication Errors

In yesterday’s blog, our pharmacy error attorneys in Baltimore, Maryland, discussed the rapidly growing numbers of doctors switching from hand-written prescriptions to electronic prescriptions—to create a more efficient system that helps to prevent medication errors in every step of the prescribing and pharmacy process.

The Wall Street Journal documented an example of possible prescription error with 59-year old Debbie Kenny, who was prescribed a new hypertension medication by her doctor that had just become available at the end of last year. Unknown to both Kenny and her doctor, the medication had the potential to interfere with her asthma—a dangerous side effect. Kenny consequently had trouble breathing after coming down with a cold, still not understanding the side effects of the medication.

After Kinney’s doctor started to e-prescribe the following month, the new electronic system indicated very clearly that Kinney should not be taking that particular hypertension drug, because of her asthma, and the drug’s side effects. She was promptly switched to another medication for hypertension that was compatible with her asthma. Kinney said that she feels more comfortable now with the new electronic system. If her doctor prescribes a new drug, she can ask for a clear computerized diagram of the side effects or the drug interactions before taking the medication—to avoid any personal injury.

As of last year, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) was helping to promote the switch to electronic prescribing by enticing doctors and paying them a bonus for e-prescribing. As of the beginning of 2012, a stronger encouragement will appear, as CMS will begin penalizing doctors who haven’t embraced the electronic system to issue patient’s prescriptions.

E-prescribing is also expected to encourage the widespread use of electronic records, to store full medical histories, labs, and let doctors send reminders and alerts to patients. As we reported in a recent blog, President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus included over $19 billion for health information technology, to help doctors and hospitals pay for electronic medical records systems and help improve the quality, safety, and efficiency of health and medical care.

In Maryland or the Washington, D.C. area, contact Lebowitz and Mzhen, LLC today.

More Doctors Are Prescribing Medicines Online, The Wall Street Journal, April 20, 1010

Related Web Resources:

Weill Cornell Medical College: Quality and Medical Informatics Division Study Shows E-Prescribing Significantly Reduces Errors, March 2010

Institute for Safe Medication Practices, (ISMP)

Institute of Medicine, (IOM)

National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention, (NCCMERP)

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