ONLINE PRESCRIPTIONS: Ohio Moves Toward Electronic Processing
The Ohio State Board of Pharmacy is urging that all prescriptions be processed electronically to avoid handwriting misreads, the Columbus Dispatch reports. Ohio pharmacist David Canowitz said he occasionally needs to call physicians to "decipher their handwriting" to avoid dispensing the wrong medication. He added that prescription errors due to illegible handwriting "happen (often) enough that we need a system that is safer than handwriting." According to the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, about 7,000 Americans die each year due to prescription errors. To avoid such mistakes, about 5% of American doctors now write prescriptions electronically. William Winsley, the state's pharmacy board executive director, said the board is currently reviewing several systems to handle the electronic prescriptions in Ohio, including Healtheon/WebMD and PocketScript; however, they are still trying to figure out how to implement a secure system. Winsley explained, "The technology is there, but safeguards have to be worked out so that pharmacists know that the prescription is legitimate." The system would transmit prescriptions from physicians to pharmacies via hand-held computers. Ohio's Riverside Methodist Hospital already uses a system in the emergency department to avoid handwriting-related medical errors. Using a computer, doctors input diagnoses, orders, prescriptions and other patient care information. Prescriptions are then printed on paper embedded with an "OhioHealth" seal to prevent forgeries. Dr. Andrew Thomas, assistant medical director of the Ohio State University Medical Center, said, "Doctor handwriting has become a stereotypical joke, but it is something we need to take more seriously" (Turner, 7/18).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.