Healthcare News & Insights

Benefits of e-prescribing for hospitals

Many hospitals have switched to using e-prescribing for patient medications. If your hospital hasn’t gotten on board, this may be the time to change your prescribing practices. 

ThinkstockPhotos-86511146A recent blog post from healthcare tech vendor Medsphere discusses the benefits of e-prescribing.

The biggest: It keeps patients healthier. The World Health Organization estimates that around half of patients worldwide don’t take their medications as prescribed.

Not surprisingly, that has a negative effect on patient outcomes – contributing to readmissions and even death.

E-prescribing involves less patient legwork, which may make it more convenient for them to get their medications. When prescriptions are filled electronically, patients have 10% improved medication adherence, according to a study from e-prescribing provider Surescripts. Other research shows similar positive results.

Another big benefit to e-prescribing: It’s easier for pharmacists to read prescriptions. And that takes many risks out of prescribing medications, such as errors caused by misinterpreting a provider’s messy handwriting.

While some errors involving manual prescriptions are minor, others can significantly affect a patient’s condition. Research has shown that e-prescribing can cut down errors by over 60%, and it’s especially effective for avoiding serious errors that could cause patient harm.

Even better – the reduction in adverse patient drug events saves money in many ways. There’s a lower chance of readmission, which means hospitals aren’t using as many staff hours to treat patients. In fact, according to Surescripts, facilities can save anywhere from $100,000 per year for small hospitals to over $1 million each year for larger ones.

Besides lower costs, other benefits to e-prescribing include a more efficient workflow and better access to patient information through the system. Improved access can help hospitals spot drug-addicted patients who are “doctor shopping” so they can receive prescriptions for controlled substances.

Questions to ask

Typically, hospitals that send prescriptions electronically do so through their electronic health records (EHR) systems.

Whether your facility is looking to implement an EHR that sends e-prescriptions (which is a requirement for meeting meaningful use objectives), or it’s switching systems and needs different e-prescribing capabilities, here are several questions you need to consider, according to Medsphere:

  • Is the solution easy to use for providers? If the e-prescribing program isn’t user-friendly for clinicians, they’re likely to bypass the system and write prescriptions manually anyway. Plus it can slow down workflow and contribute to errors. Make sure you consider doctors’ needs when purchasing a solution.
  • What systems do the pharmacies we work with use? Compatibility issues can prevent prescriptions from being transmitted correctly. Double-check with the pharmacies where your hospital sends prescriptions most often and ask how they transmit information – and what network you should be using.
  • Is the network secure? You don’t want any sensitive patient protected health information to fall into the wrong hands while transmitting a prescription. So it’s smart to huddle with IT and your vendors to find out what technology is being used to encrypt and protect e-prescriptions when they’re being sent to pharmacies.
  • How do we introduce e-prescribing to patients? If you’re just starting to use an e-prescribing system, patients may not be familiar with the concept. Older patients may be especially upset if they don’t receive paper prescriptions. It may be a good idea to explain the details of e-prescribing to patients. And initially, clinicians may want to give them a printed document to take to the pharmacy when they pick up their medications.

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