New Jersey Doctors May Soon Email Prescriptions
Doctors in New Jersey may soon be able to email prescriptions directly to pharmacies, a move designed to "reduc[e] errors caused by illegible handwriting," the Newark Star-Ledger reports. According to the Institute of Medicine, nearly 7,000 Americans die from drug errors annually. Several companies currently make and market hand-held computers that "can transmit prescriptions straight from an exam room to a drugstore." The computers can warn doctors about side effects and allergic reactions and provide information about what prescriptions a patient's insurance will cover. New Jersey law currently allows prescriptions to be transmitted only on paper, by fax or by telephone. Mark Herr, director of the state Division of Consumer Affairs, said, "We're moving on this now because we've all been horrified by the medical error rate. Handwritten prescriptions are a pretty sloppy way of sending information." However, some health officials have concerns about electronic prescriptions. Pharmacists worry that prescriptions would bypass local pharmacies and go to larger "central clearinghouses," which will then direct them to mail-order pharmacies. Protecting patient privacy is also a concern. Regulators, the state boards of pharmacy and medical examiners are working to establish new regulations, which could take effect in late spring (Campbell, Newark Star-Ledger, 2/19).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.