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by Gaby Loria,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: October 15, 2016

The prescription pad has been redesigned for the digital age, and it’s changing the way patients get the medication they need. Doctors are now turning to electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) software instead of paper-based notes to handle their prescription orders.

To give you an idea of its popularity, e-prescribing has been cited as one of the highest-priority health information technology (IT) investments among medical practices surveyed by Software Advice.

Vendors are taking notice of the demand for electronic prescription software. As a result, there are hundreds of solutions available for practices to purchase. In this guide, we’ll break down what you need to know before selecting the right e-prescribing software for your organization.

Here’s what we’ll discuss:

What Is E-Prescribing Software?
Common Functionality of E-Prescribing Software
Deployment Strategies

What Is E-Prescribing Software?

E-prescribing is the process of electronically generating and transmitting a prescription order directly from a healthcare provider to a patient’s pharmacy of choice. In other words, doctors can create and send a patient’s prescription using their computer or mobile device, rather than using manual methods (e.g., phone calls and faxes) to contact pharmacies.

Electronic prescriptions are transmitted through private, secure and closed networks maintained by e-prescribing software vendors. These networks are able to connect with the vast majority of pharmacies across the country.

The government has supported e-prescriptions by passing laws incentivizing their adoption, such as the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA) of 2003 and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009. This is likely due to the software’s many benefits, which include:

Source: NCBI

For all these reasons, electronic prescribing has been lauded as a more accurate, efficient and safe alternative to handwritten prescriptions.

Common Functionality of E-Prescribing Software

Vendors offer a variety of functional breadth and depth in their e-prescribing solutions. Here are some of the most common capabilities:

Medication selection Prescribers can typically choose from more than one option when searching for a medication to include in the prescription order, including generic alternatives to brand-name drugs.
Prescription creation and submission Users can generate new prescriptions to be sent directly to a pharmacy from their desktop computer or mobile device. These orders can be processed individually or several at a time. Order management tools are typically included to ensure pharmacies have received prescriptions.
Adverse interaction checks Most systems offer alerts and warnings for a variety of potential adverse reactions from a particular prescription, such as drug interactions, allergies, dosage amounts and duplicates.
Refill authorizations Pharmacies can send refill requests to prescribers directly through the software's network. Providers can then approve or deny these requests electronically.
Medication history views Most solutions allow users to access a patient’s medication history by importing it from a pharmacy’s database, or through the medication claims history provided by insurance payers/pharmacy benefit managers.

Deployment Strategies

E-prescribing vendors offer their products through one of two deployment models: stand-alone applications, or electronic health records (EHR) suites that include electronic prescription capabilities along with several other applications (e.g., patient scheduling and billing).

According to the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC), most doctors opt for the integrated EHR model:

This may be because it’s easier to implement an e-prescribing system that’s integrated with a practice management solution out of the box. Integrating a third-party e-prescribing product with existing EHR software is generally more difficult.

On the other hand, stand-alone or “best-of-breed” programs have the benefit of being less expensive than EHR suites, in most cases. Since the user is only paying for one application as opposed to three or more, the fee for service isn’t usually as high.

Your budget and the size of your practice will be the determining factors when it comes to deciding between a best-of-breed system and an integrated EHR suite. Large and midsize practices with greater resources and multiple prescribers will likely be better served by comprehensive EHR suites than they will by stand-alone e-prescribing systems.

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