What are the Pros and Cons of E-prescribing for Seniors?
Virtual doctor visits and e-prescribing have changed the way we interact with doctors and pharmacies. Whether you take advantage of a face-to-face appointment with your physician or schedule a virtual visit, your doctor may determine that you require medication to improve your health or treat a chronic condition.
In the past, you’d have to take a hand-written prescription signed by your doctor to your local pharmacy. Over the last several years, providers have started using electronic prescribing to simplify the process.
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What are Electronic Prescriptions?
Until recently, e-prescriptions were not always available. It was normal for your doctor to fill out your needed medications on a prescription pad before tearing it off and handing it to you. Then you had to take the handwritten, barely legible note and present it to your pharmacist to get your prescription filled.
These days, when you check in at your doctor’s office, you will likely be asked which pharmacy you use so the doctor can “call in” your prescriptions. The process is called electronic prescribing, otherwise known as e-prescribing. It is now common for healthcare providers to use e-prescribing software, which comes with potential benefits and drawbacks.
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How Do E-Prescriptions Work?
Electronic prescribing refers to software that enables healthcare practitioners to transmit prescriptions to pharmacies digitally. Your doctor or a member of the medical staff enters prescription data online using a computer or portable device.
Once the message is transmitted, your pharmacist receives and fills the prescriptions. If you have text messaging enabled with your pharmacy, you may get a text to let you know when your medication is available for pickup or delivery arrangements.
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What are the Benefits of E-prescribing?
While many people may have doubts about security issues surrounding sending private health information online, there are many benefits of e-prescribing for medical providers and patients.
Let’s go over some of the most beneficial features of e-prescribing.
Convenience, communication and accuracy
A 2015 study of older adults’ perceptions of e-prescribing concluded that e-prescriptions were generally favored over paper prescriptions. Benefits included increased convenience, improved communication between patients and healthcare providers, and perceived improvement in healthcare.
The study had 75 participants, all 50 years of age or older. “Of the 57 participants whose doctors sent their prescriptions electronically, 93% reported being very satisfied with their doctor, and 84% reported being very satisfied with their pharmacist.”
Because older adults are likely to have multiple conditions, be under the care of more than one specialist and take several medications, they are at risk of inappropriate prescribing. With an e- prescribe system, the risk is reduced because the system allows prescribers to access a patient’s complete medical records and check for potential drug interactions.
Safety, compliance and cost-effectiveness
According to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), healthcare providers who prescribe controlled substances must use health information technology that complies with all Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) mandates. Electronic prescribing for controlled substances (EPCS), the processing of transmitting prescriptions electronically, has many benefits, according to CMS, including “improved patient safety and workflow efficiencies, fraud deterrence, adherence to management and reduced burden.”
The Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) Act is 2018 legislation enacted to address the opioid crisis. Under this act, prescribers must use e-prescribing software to prescribe Schedule II-V controlled substances covered under Medicare Part D. Medications can be tracked for nonadherence, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) can impose penalties for noncompliance.
Healthcare quality combined with patient safety, which is a benefit of e-prescribing, is achieved by reducing errors and flagging drug interactions, according to The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). Electronic prescribing software can help practitioners access pharmacy benefits data, patient medical history, lab results and clinical notes. Prescribers can be informed of a patient’s medication changes and potential adverse drug reactions. The ONC touts electronic prescribing as “more convenient, cheaper, and safer for doctors, pharmacies and patients.”
What are the Disadvantages of Electronic Prescribing?
Despite the efficiency and accuracy of e-prescribing, there are concerns that have been voiced. Electronic prescribing has introduced the possibility of new errors that didn’t exist when using paper prescription pads.
A few of the common disadvantages of electronic prescribing for seniors include:
- Improper patient selection
- App alert fatigue
- Improper or difficult product selection
- Poor design features making it difficult for technology-challenged seniors to take full advantage of the software
- Security and privacy concerns
Also, smaller, independent pharmacies may not have the financial resources or appropriate technology necessary to implement an e-prescribing system.
Security and privacy
Questions of patient privacy often come up with telehealth appointments. Being able to talk to your doctor during e-visits is convenient, but you may still have reservations.
As with all forms of technology, there is always a concern for protecting your personal information, even when the data is encrypted to help keep your health records private and private.
A robust and secure e-prescribing system will have multi-layers of security protection in place to help keep patients’ data safe.
Electronic Prescription Resources
If you enjoyed reading this article, check out our related posts on the Medicare Benefits blog:
- Does Medicare Cover E-visits?
- The Pros and Cons of Telehealth Virtual Healthcare Visits
- How Seniors are Using Technology to Gracefully Age-in-place
- Video Series: Guide for Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage
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