Study Shows E-Prescribing Significantly Reduces Prescription Errors

In a recent news that our Baltimore, Maryland Attorneys have been following, doctors are reportedly increasingly leaving behind paper when prescribing medications, and depending more and more on electronic prescriptions, or “e-prescriptions”—in an effort to avoid pharmacy misfills and medication errors, along with hard-to-read doctor handwriting, or even prescription fraud, as our attorneys reported on in our last blog.

E-prescribing immediately sends the prescriptions to the pharmacy in a digital format through a secured Internet network, from a handheld device or from their computers. The doctor simply selects the drug from a computerized list, with other symbols indicating the best drug option, different dosages, and either generic or name-brand medicine, instead of hand-writing the prescription, which can lead to medication error. Some e-prescribing programs give symbols in the form of colored or smiling faces, delineating between cheapest, preferred, or less desirable drug options.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the number of e-prescriptions almost tripled last year, from 68 million in the previous year, to 191 million in 2009. Surescripts, LLC, the company that handles the majority of the electronic communications in e-prescribing, reports that this represents 12% of the 1.63 billion original prescriptions, which excludes refills. The first three months of this year showed that one out of every five prescriptions is being filed electronically—a number that is rapidly growing, as nearly 25% of doctors based in offices already have the technology to e-prescribe.

In a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine in February of this year, e-prescribing was found to reduce common hand-written prescriptions errors significantly, including pharmacy misfills containing the wrong dosage, or incorrect usage instructions that could lead to patient injury or even wrongful death.

The study, “Electronic Prescribing Improves Medication Safety In Community-Based Office Practices, showed that when practices started using e-prescribing for a year, they reduced their error rate from 42.5% to 6.6% on average. Medical practices with doctors who continued to hand write prescriptions on paper, rose from a 38% error rate to 39%.

E-prescribing can also contribute to prescription errors, for instance, if a doctor mistakenly presses the wrong key, or chooses the wrong form of the drug, like a pill form instead of liquid form for children. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices focuses on analyzing and reducing medication errors, and although they support electronic prescribing, they recommend that patients always ask for verbal clarification and guidance from their doctors, as well as printed out instructions before taking the medication, to avoid medication mistakes or personal injury.

At Lebowitz and Mzhen LLC, our attorneys strive to make sure that pharmacy misfill victims and their loved ones receive the personal injury compensation they deserve. Call us today at 1-800-654-1949.

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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