State Initiative Pushes Electronic Prescribing

Published Online: Sunday, May 1, 2005

Health organizations throughout Maryland recently formed the Maryland Safety Through Electronic Prescribing (STEP) Initiative. Its main goal is to fast-forward the voluntary adoption of electronic prescribing among physician practices in Maryland to improve patient safety. The 27 organizations comprising the Maryland STEP Initiative want to provide a collaborative forum for leading stakeholders to address the obstacles to implementation and the barriers to adoption.

The participants believe that patients, physician practices, pharmacies, and payers will benefit from widespread adoption of electronic prescribing. The organizations emphasize that patient safety will be improved through reduced errors caused by misinterpreted handwriting and verbal communications, unclear abbreviations or dose designations, and fax problems.

"Electronic prescribing has important patient safety and practice efficiency benefits and should be implemented with a migration or integration path towards use of a full electronic health record," said Michael Tooke, MD, chief medical officer of Delmarva Foundation. "Some physicians are not ready for a full electronic health record, and, for them, electronic prescribing can be a very good step in the right direction."

The Maryland STEP Initiative recognizes that electronic prescribing will streamline communications between pharmacies and physician practices. The steps will result in a reduced number of calls and faxes to clarify prescription information, authorize prescription renewals, and check formulary and benefits eligibility.

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