E-Prescription: What It Is, How It Works, & Why It’s California Law
Posted by Paolo Gabriel Demillo
The healthcare industry’s aggressive pivot towards digitalization slowly renders manual processes obsolete. Traditional, paper-based prescription is a case in point. Providers, patients, pharmacies, and lawmakers see electronic prescription, or e-prescription, as a more efficient way of prescribing medication, which is why it’s rapidly becoming the new industry standard.
With the electronic prescribing mandate taking effect at the start of the year, almost all prescriptions issued within California have to be electronically transmitted. And so, the era of e-prescription begins.
What is E-Prescription & How Does It Work?
As the name suggests, e-prescription is a method of prescribing medication electronically. As electronic health record (EHR) technology advances, some systems like Meditab’s Intelligent Medical Software (IMS) have introduced e-prescription functionalities into their platforms.
You can generate e-prescriptions using your EHR or e-prescribing software. Rather than handwriting, faxing, or phoning in medication orders, e-prescription allows you to directly transmit prescriptions to pharmacies, helping reduce errors while saving you, your patients, and pharmacies time.
Most e-prescription systems connect you to a network of pharmacies from which your patients can choose their most convenient location. The process of generating and transmitting an e-prescription is as simple as selecting the appropriate medication information from the built-in drug database. From there, you can specify the brand name, whether a generic equivalent is safe, the dosage, and the patient instructions. After verifying the patient and drug details, you can then transmit the prescription to your patient's pharmacy of choice.
Reduce the Risk of Medication Errors
Prescribing clinicians know how vital proper medication management is in ensuring positive patient outcomes, but they are also equally aware of the potential risks medication errors pose. In the United States, medication prescribing and dispensing mistakes are some of the most common and persistent causes of preventable medical errors.
In 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that they receive over 100,000 medication error-related reports yearly. E-prescribing eliminates the challenges of paper prescriptions, such as ambiguous handwriting and medication information oversight. Having the ability to instantly generate drug details with a few clicks improves your prescribing workflow and ensures safety and accuracy. So if you wish to improve your quality of care, adopting e-prescription is an excellent way to start.
E-Prescription Improves Patient Satisfaction
Like you, your patients value their time. They have more important things to do than wait at the pharmacy while their medication gets filled. However, with e-prescription, you send the prescription directly to the pharmacy at the point of care. Meaning, they receive the order even before the patient walks through their doors.
Considering how much patients value speed and convenience nowadays, e-prescription is sure to give them a much better experience and improve your patient satisfaction rate.
California’s E-Prescribing Mandate
Passed by the California State Legislature in 2018, bill AB 2789 — the law mandating healthcare providers and organizations to shift their prescribing method from paper to electronic — took effect on January 1, 2022. The delayed implementation was intended to give practices time to prepare and select their e-prescription software.
The law requires practices across California to utilize e-prescriptions over paper with only a few exceptions such as:
- Controlled substances prescriptions for use by a patient who has a terminal illness.
- E-prescribing is not available due to a temporary technological or electrical failure.
- The prescribing physician is issuing a prescription to be dispensed by a pharmacy located outside California.
- The prescription is issued in a hospital emergency department or urgent care clinic and either the patient resides outside California, the patient resides outside the geographic area of the hospital, the patient is homeless or indigent and does not have a preferred pharmacy.
- The prescription is issued at a time when a patient’s regular or preferred pharmacy is likely to be closed.
- The prescription is issued by a veterinarian.
- The prescription is for eyeglasses or contact lenses.
- The prescribing physician and the dispenser are the same entity.
- The prescription is issued by a prescribing physician under circumstances whereby the physician reasonably determines that it would be impractical for the patient to obtain controlled substances from an e-prescription in a timely manner, and the delay would adversely impact the patient’s medical condition.
- The prescription that is issued includes elements not covered by the latest version of the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs’ SCRIPT standard.
When any of the exceptions apply, prescribing physicians must document it in the patient record within 72 hours of filling the prescription.
Although specific circumstances and certain types of prescriptions are exempt from the law, the California Medical Association doesn't provide any exceptions for physician practices. That means all California medical practices should have already implemented e-prescription at the start of the year.
With many states already experiencing mandates, and many more coming soon, it's only a matter of time before the entire nation accepts e-prescription as the norm.
Choose Your E-Prescription Software Wisely
EHR-integrated e-prescriptions have an inherent advantage over stand-alone systems. E-prescription solutions like IMS Hub-Rx allow you to pull patient information from your EHR database and instantly connect it with the prescription, helping streamline your workflow and reducing risks of data entry errors.
It’s Time to Embrace E-Prescription
E-prescription is not an entirely new technology. It's been around for quite some time. Many practices — successful ones at that — had already adopted it long before the mandate passed into law in 2018.
The pandemic introduced radical changes in the healthcare industry. And digital shifts like telehealth and e-prescription are just the beginning. You need to adapt for your practice to stay competitive amid constant changes and industry disruptions.
But in the case of e-prescription, the benefits and advantages speak for themselves. It’s not that hard to see why you should embrace it. On top of the time-saving benefits it offers, e-prescription promotes a safer, more accurate prescribing process, helping you improve patient outcomes. If that’s not reason enough, what is?