E-Prescriptions Let Pharmacists Focus on Patient Care

Electronic prescribing technology is permitting pharmacists to focus less on administrative tasks and more on providing direct patient care.

Electronic prescribing technology is permitting pharmacists to focus less on administrative tasks and more on providing direct patient care.

E-prescribing has been improving the fluidity of pharmacy workflow through changes to the prior authorization process. This important yet onerous administrative procedure has traditionally contributed to decreased levels of medication adherence. In fact, data collected by health information network provider Surescripts showed 20% to 30% of patients “abandon their prescribed drugs at the pharmacy” as a direct result of prior authorization.

By providing real-time electronic prior authorization, e-prescribing systems have reduced the rate of patients leaving their prescriptions behind.

E-prescriptions have also reduced the amount of time pharmacists dedicate to the prior authorization process. According to the Surescripts data, a pharmacist spends 4 hours a week manually participating in this procedure, which comes at a total cost of $11,000 per pharmacist per year.

Pharmacy Times Health-System Edition Editor Stephen Eckel, PharmD, MHA, BCPA, FASHP, FAPhA, said e-prescribing and other pharmacy technologies “free the pharmacists’ time up to be at the bedside [of patients] in the new practice model, as opposed to the traditional model where we relied on humans” to perform these functions.

These information systems have helped ensure the chain of events spanning from “when the physician prescribes, to the pharmacy prepar[ing] and dispens[ing], to the nurse administer[ing], is seamlessly integrated together,” said Dr. Eckel, adding that this transition “has been a tremendous boon to improving medication use.”

Despite the advantages of e-prescribing, implementing this technology in pharmacies has presented some challenges. For instance, a study published in the British Medical Journal found nearly half of respondent pharmacists reported having to rewrite medication instructions to help patients understand them.

In a separate study published in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association, community pharmacists indicated e-prescriptions often arrive later than patients believed they would. This can lead to additional work for the pharmacy technician, who must call the physician to investigate the delay and ensure the e-prescription was not sent to a different pharmacy.