Firms Offer Digital Prescription Systems to Combat Medication Errors, But Doctors Slow to Adopt Technology
While a "handful" of companies have begun to offer digital prescription systems to help reduce medication errors resulting from "harried" doctors' illegible handwriting, their marketing efforts -- often backed by pharmaceutical companies -- have "made small inroads into changing prescribing habits," the AP/Akron Beacon Journal reports. "It seems like a no-brainer to say that if we automate prescription-writing, we will get rid of a lot of medical errors," Mark Bard, director of health practice at Cyber Dialogue, said, adding, "But doctors have been slow to change." Only 4% of the nation's 625,300 doctors currently use personal digital assistants to order prescriptions. Doctors blame a "lack of standards for connecting hand-held devices with ... pharmacies, labs and health insurers," as well as costs, for their failure to "adopt electronic prescription writing." However, those factors may soon change. Three pharmacy benefits management companies -- Advance PCS, Express Scripts Inc., and Merck & Co.'s Merck Medco -- have formed RxHub to develop software to link their systems by next year. In addition, corporate initiatives, as well as legislation, "may prod doctors to change habits." Washington state requires doctors to issue "legible" prescriptions, and a bill in the New York Legislature would require printed prescriptions. Meanwhile, General Motors Co. has begun providing doctors in two cities with free personal digital assistants, printers and software to write prescriptions (Agovino, AP/Akron Beacon Journal, 6/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.