Everyone knows the old jokes about doctors having bad handwriting. They're funny because they're so often true. At the same time, they're not at all funny because bad handwriting actually leads to serious mistakes.
Illegible handwritten medication prescriptions are the subject of many funny-not-funny jokes
According to a 2006 study, covered by Time magazine, "Doctors' sloppy handwriting kills more than 7,000 people [...] and injures more than 1.5 million Americans [...]. Many such errors result from unclear abbreviations and dosage indications and illegible writing on some of the 3.2 billion prescriptions written in the U.S. every year."
As the number of prescriptions written annually keeps rising—up to nearly 4.5 billion in the US in 2016—it's clear that a solution to the problem is needed. Thankfully, a simple solution already exists. Dedicated prescription writing software is one tool in the vast family of medical software and is the subject of this Buyer's Guide. In it we cover:
Prescription writing software is a group of dedicated applications and software platform add-ons that help doctors create, print, record and transmit prescriptions. Doctors and practices seeking broader functionality should begin their search by reading our medical software Buyer's Guide.
Pharmacy selection screen in NextGen Healthcare's integrated medical software platform
As the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine writes, "Medication administration is founded on what are termed the 'five rights'—the right drug, in the right dose, by the right route, at the right time, to the right patient."
That's a lot to get right! Prescription writing software helps get it all right every time, by helping health care providers avoid mistakes caused by oversights, transcription errors or just messy handwriting.
While features vary considerably depending on whether the prescription writing software is used on its own or as part of a larger integrated suite of medical software, some common features to know about include the following:
|Patient information||Helps fill out prescriptions with patient information (name, address, date of birth etc.) obtained through integration with patient electronic health records (EHRs) or other digital records.|
|Drug search||Lets prescribers search and select from a database of medication options, including those for over-the-counter (OTC) medications, drug nicknames and generic alternatives.|
|Medication history views||With EHR integration, medication history views provide information on a patient's current and past prescription history.|
|Adverse interaction checks||Helps prescribers stay on top of any potential drug interactions by checking for drug allergies and other contraindications.|
|E-prescribe||Electronically transmit new prescriptions directly to a pharmacy or receive refill requests from a pharmacy.|
|One-click prescribing and refills||More automated implementation of e-prescribe and one-click functions streamline the prescribing and refill processes.|
|EHR integrations||General back-end functionality that supports many more advanced prescription writing software features, such as integration with medication histories.|
|Certifications||Prescription writing software may be certified by a number of third-parties, including the Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission (EHNAC)|
Certifications for Prescription Writing Software
There are many laws and regulations that govern how a health care provider can store, use and transmit information related to a patient's health. Importantly, these laws apply to the providers of health care, but not to the software they use. This means that if a practice uses software that runs afoul of these laws, then it's the practice that's on the hook and not the software vendor.
Thankfully, there are a number of groups and commissions that provide accreditations. One example, the Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission (EHNAC) describes itself as a "nonprofit accrediting body designed to improve transactional quality, operational efficiency and data security in health care."
EHNAC accreditations available to prescribers, prescription writing software platforms and pharmacies
Regarding prescriptions specifically, EHNAC has accreditations for software, pharmacies and practices. Prescription writing software buyers can improve their chances at full compliance by looking for vendors that have these or similar accreditations.
Move toward mobile devices
It's no secret that the world is rapidly moving toward digitalization. From online learning to online appointment scheduling and everything in between, new uses for digital communications are unfolding almost daily. In the health care sphere, the move to electronic health records (EHRs) is one of the most obvious manifestations of this larger trend.
In a previous survey, Software Advice learned that health care providers use a variety of devices to access and input information to EHRs:
Device Used to Access EHRs
Interestingly, though a majority reported using desktop computers, those using mobile devices (tablets, smartphones) actually reported a higher level of satisfaction:
Satisfaction With EHR, by Device Type Used
While many offices have implemented desktop/laptop computers into their workflows, the evidence suggests they'd be more satisfied if they made the switch to mobile devices. Buyers of prescription writing software should take this into consideration and look for software with good mobile device compatibility.
Digitalization opens door to better health outcomes
Much of the discussion about the benefits of prescription writing software focuses on efficiency and error prevention. While clearly important, there are other benefits worth noting. Namely, many of the medical world's up-and-coming advancements will be most readily available to practices that have embraced digital technologies in their workflows.
Look at genomics-based drug selection as one example. In the report "Predicts 2017: Healthcare Providers Take a Step Toward Digital Business" (available to Gartner clients), Richard Gibson notes that:
But how will prescribers find the time to weigh all these additional factors? They won't need to. Instead, prescription writing software will work quietly behind the scenes and offer medication suggestions that the evidence has shown to work most effectively with particular markers in that patient's genome.
That's just one example, but it's a good one. It shows how transitioning now to a digital practice will open up opportunities down the road.
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