Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Electronic prescriptions not federally mandated, local pharmacist says

This article was originally published by the Viễn Đông on May 19, 2012. It was written by Vanessa White.

WESTMINSTER, California—A newer form of prescribing medication has been touted as helping reduce errors and speed up delivery time, though the Viễn Đông has learned that the process might be slower.
E-prescribe is a system that allows doctors to “electronically send an accurate, error-free and understandable prescription directly to a pharmacy from the point-of-care,” according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) website. Included in the 2003 federal Medicare Modernization Act, e-prescribing has become considerably popular and aligned with the government’s plans to make medical records electronic.

Garden Grove’s Tran Pharmacy Pharmacist Thư-Hằng Trần told the Viễn Đông in a May 12, 2012 phone interview that the e-prescribe process involves a doctor inputting prescriptions into a laptop instead of using a notepad.

To some extent, the e-prescribe system does reduce error, Pharmacist Trần said. For example, if done correctly, the pharmacy will receive the prescription right away and the patient can pick it up sooner than if the patient had brought in the prescription.
Also, if a doctor has poor handwriting, Pharmacist Trần added, electronically submitting the prescription can ensure that the pharmacist reads the prescription correctly and does not make a mistake with the order. Though, aside from ensuring patients receive their prescriptions in a timely and accurate manner, Medicare gives doctors bonuses for using e-prescribe.

Doctors who do not use e-prescribe, Pharmacist Trần continued, experience a 1-2 percent reduction in payments, even though the program is not federally mandated.
E-prescribe myths

Pharmacist Trần told the Viễn Đông that some doctors who use e-prescribe will tell their patients that they can only send prescriptions to certain pharmacies that accept e-prescribe.
A common trick, she said, is for doctors to say that the patient must pick up a prescription from one particular pharmacy and nowhere else. Though in reality, the doctor might have a wife or brother-in-law operating that pharmacy and the doctor is helping to benefit others in the business, she added.

Pharmacist Trần suggested to the Viễn Đông that she is not one of those pharmacists with connections, as some doctors do not send her prescriptions right away. When the patient shows up looking for their prescription and she has not yet received it, she said that she calls the doctors and they tell her that there must be a problem with her receiver.
Some doctors even tell their patients not to go to her pharmacy, she continued, adding that she shares with her patients that some doctors offer misleading information.

Another e-prescribe trick involves pharmacists who do not give their patients the entire prescriptions, she said. For example, if a patient is to pick up 10 medications, some pharmacists will give the patients eight or nine, because the pharmacists might be short on medication or even because they might want to keep it for themselves.

Though, one of the most upsetting tricks or  “lies,” Pharmacist Trần said, is for doctors to tell their patients that because they are using e-prescribe, the federal government has mandated that they cannot write out a prescription for the patient. Not only is it misleading the patient regarding their prescription, she added, but it leads to a dislike toward the federal government.
“Many doctors take advantage,” she said.

Fight for the prescription
Pharmacist Trần told the Viễn Đông that patients have the right to ask their doctors for hand-written prescriptions. In fact, they should do so before leaving the doctor’s office, even if the doctor uses e-prescribe, she added.

With a handwritten copy of their prescriptions, she continued, the patient will know if the pharmacist is withholding medication or if the doctor has failed to electronically send the prescription to the pharmacy.
Some patients will have to fight for their prescriptions, she said, adding that this has been the case with some of her patients and she feels sorry for them having to fight for their right.

Medicare does not mandate that doctors and pharmacists use e-prescribe, she reiterated.

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