Have you visited a doctor for an illness and been prescribed medication? It used to be that you would walk away from the doctor’s office with a piece of paper in hand that you could hardly read. However, instead of receiving a written prescription to take to the pharmacy, most doctors are now sending an electronic prescription to your pharmacy for you.
An electronic prescription, also known as e-prescribing, is the writing and sending of prescriptions through a computer. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are many benefits associated with e-prescribing, including:
- Preventing medication errors by providing digitally written prescriptions, instead of hard-to-read, handwritten ones
- Reducing the amount of time pharmacists spend on the phone clarifying handwritten prescriptions
- Reducing adverse drug effects by helping pharmacists and doctors identify drug interactions through the computer
How E-Prescribing Works
A doctor selects a drug via the computer that he or she wants to prescribe a patient. The order gets sent electronically via an encrypted network to the pharmacy on file. The pharmacist then receives the prescription and fills it.
While this sounds great and safe and there are many benefits to e-prescribing, there is still concern that wrong dosages might occur due to inability to interpret codes, also known as SIG codes. Doctors use a variation of codes through e-prescribing, and pharmacists may have difficulty interpreting these codes such as take medication once daily (QD) or take medication four times daily (QID). If QID is prescribed instead of QD, a patient may suffer a medication error and a potential overdose.
Concerns About Electronic Prescriptions
Even with e-prescribing, there is still the concern that pharmacists may mistake a medication with a similar name or appearance for another drug and fill the prescription incorrectly. Also, doctors and pharmacists may have a false sense of security with the use of the computer; typing errors are one example of an error that could occur and lead to the incorrect dose and patient harm.
For this reason, it is best for patients to ask their doctors for a hard copy of the prescription (prescription voucher) or for the drug specifics, including the name of the medication, dosage, and instructions on how to take the medication. Patients should never solely rely on the doctor sending the prescription to the pharmacy electronically or else they will not know what to expect at the pharmacy, such as if they are picking up the right drug and if the medication dose is correct. If patients have the prescription voucher in hand, they can check to make sure they are receiving the right drug and the correct dose.
Victims of medication errors should contact an experienced pharmacy error lawyer for help understanding their rights and to make sure they are receiving justice. If you or a loved one was injured by a pharmacy mistake, call Kennedy Hodges, L.L.P. at 888-526-7616 for a free consultation and a FREE copy of our report, How to Make Pharmacies Pay for Injuries Caused by Medication Errors.