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E-Prescribing Gains Ground

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Doctors are renowned for poor penmanship. This is not a joking matter, however, since misread prescriptions have led to serious mistakes in dosing, adverse reactions or even death. Prescribing electronically eliminates the problem of penmanship. Doctors can enter prescriptions from a computer or a handheld wireless device. It is estimated that one in three doctors uses e-prescribing in the office. Patients should still request a printout of their prescription so they can check at the pharmacy to make sure they have received the right drug in the right dose with the correct instructions.

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This is a great example of inadvertent consequences. E-prescribing should reduce indecipherable prescriptions that cause medicine errors, but there are some major downsides as well:

First, doctors tend to prescribe medicines that drug reps have been pushing. Besides that pressure, most doctors are too busy to research the latest information about medicines. For both reasons, problems can occur. In the last 12 years I have been given two "new, better, safer" medicines (Duract and Baycol) which were later taken off the market because of adverse results, including deaths.

Second, new medicines often cost more than comparable medicines and/or generics. Nexium is a good example. So the patient is harmed financially as well.

Third, paper prescriptions allowed me to do research; once or twice I even convinced my MD to change my prescription. Patients who prefer to research medicines and their alternatives no longer have that possibility. All they can do is cancel the prescription as soon as possible or meekly accept a medicine they think is problematic.

With all these clear and easy prescriptions coming in, no doubt the pharmaceutical companies will see their bottom line improved.


I was a traveling nurse for 22 years. When some hospitals instituted a policy of physician entered medication orders some simply left the ward and then called in phone orders. Hand held wireless devices should fix that. At one hospital there is a surgeon who will tell you " You better learn to read my writing."

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