The push for paperless prescriptions - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

The push for paperless prescriptions

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

By Karen Abernathy – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The push for paperless prescriptions has been an uphill battle, but it's gaining momentum. It's designed to cut down on errors. And that's important since more than 1.5 million Americans are harmed every year by medication mistakes.

Medicare began the push for paperless prescriptions in 2005, offering bonus payments to doctors who complied early with the change over. Medicare officials say come 2012, holdouts who are still sticking to hand written prescriptions will find their Medicare payments cut.

Larry Krohn at Beach Pharmacy in Gulfport made the switch to e-prescriptions a few years ago, shortly after Medicare announced the new guidelines.

"It's a good idea and the whole point is to cut down on errors," Krohn said.

When doctors send in prescription orders electronically to a pharmacy, pharmacists don't have to deal with the usual problems that can accompany some prescriptions.

"It's hard to read handwritten prescriptions sometimes, and easy to misunderstand call in prescriptions, or sound alike drugs." 

Krohn said interpreting prescriptions becomes even more difficult each year with a growing number of drugs, many of which have similar names and sounds.

"Every year we get notices saying, Be careful, we have sound alike drugs that are spelled similarly.

Krohn said switching to the electronic system significantly reduces the risk of errors. But Medicare officials say persuading doctors to make the switch has been a long, uphill battle. Krohn said slowly but steadily, doctors on the coast are making the change.

"We have several doctors offices that have been using it for years, but more are slow to jump on it. But we're getting more and more doctors."

There's one big barrier to e-prescriptions: Narcotic pain killers and other controlled substances, which account for 20 percent of all prescriptions, are banned from electronic prescribing. But the Drug Enforcement Administration is working on rules to eventually allow it.

Larry Krohn believes switching to electronic prescriptions is an investment that will pay off for everyone in the long run.

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