ePrescribing and Bowel Movements

Posted on April 9, 2012 I Written By

Dr. West is an endocrinologist in private practice in Washington, DC. He completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. West opened The Washington Endocrine Clinic, PLLC in 2009. He can be contacted at doctorwestindc@gmail.com.

Someone recently asked me to comment on my use of electronic prescriptions.  In general, I love them, especially since the old-fashioned method of paper prescriptions is notoriously prone to problems and/or failure on many levels.

1.  Paper scrips take longer to produce by handwriting than typing in a typical electronic e-Rx module.

2.  Patients can lose the scrips.  I once wrote out 15 paper scrips, painfully, during a dinner with friends in a restaurant while we were waiting to be seated.  (To think that I actually wasted a stamp on this.)  Two weeks later, the patient called and said she had lost them and wanted me to send them again.  Fool me once …

3.  Pharmacists can have trouble reading the scrips.

4.  Certain scrips for controlled substances — like narcotics and testosterone — sometimes need to be written on special paper.

5.  Patients may switch insurance plans more than once a year.

6.  Insurance plans may switch mail order pharmacies during a given year.

With electronic prescribing, the frustration levels and ultimate waste of time involved with paper prescriptions is shrunk down to a minimum.  Not that this is perfect, but it’s far superior to paper.  Patients can still give you wrong information.  The scrips can be mismanaged (lost or incorrectly filled) by pharmacy technicians.  The list goes on…  Once I actually had a technician call me for clarification on a scrip that had nothing wrong with it whatsoever.  She needed to know if I wanted the patient to take 2 tablets a day, or 11.  I went to bed that night comforted that we had such detail-oriented professionals running the pharmacies of America.

Overall though, I would have to say that ePrescribing is a lot like having a bowel movement.  Ninety-five percent of the time it works perfectly and saves me an enormous amount of time and effort in getting me to where I need to go next.  Five percent of the time, it ends in a colossal failure and a lot of extra time sitting around waiting for the ordeal to end.