Electronic prescribing for controlled substances (EPCS) is quickly becoming both a best practice and a legal requirement for healthcare providers. Sending prescriptions directly to the pharmacy through a digital system instead of giving patients a paper prescription is both more secure and more efficient. It’s also required in many states, and the federal government now requires it for Medicare Part D patients as well. Even when it isn’t required, prescribing both controlled and non-controlled medications electronically is almost always the best option for healthcare providers. These problems could all come up if you don’t comply with EPCS recommendations and requirements.
You Might Violate Legal Regulations
As of January 1, 2023, clinicians need to use EPCS for at least 70% of their controlled substance prescriptions for Medicare Part D patients. Most states already had some type of EPCS system in place before this federal deadline, and some of these state regulations are broader than the federal law. For example, New York has required that healthcare providers prescribe both controlled substances and non-controlled medications electronically in most situations since 2016. Electronic prescribing is legal nationwide, so defaulting to prescribing controlled medications electronically can ensure that you’re complying with state and federal regulations. While there aren’t federal penalties for noncompliance yet, providers do need to track their compliance in 2023. This is likely to continue going forward, so it’s a good idea to start using an EPCS system now if you haven’t already.
A Pharmacist Might Misread Your Handwriting
Handwritten paper prescriptions can be difficult to read. Whether because of messy handwriting or individual variations in letter shapes, a pharmacist might misread the prescription and dispense the wrong medication or the wrong dose. Some experts believe that this is the cause of up to 25% of medication errors. If the pharmacist can’t tell what you wrote or you used an abbreviation they weren’t familiar with, they’ll need to call your practice to ask for clarification, which takes up valuable time for both of you. Even if your handwriting is very neat and you don’t use any non-standard abbreviations, many younger adults struggle to read cursive since it’s no longer regularly taught in schools. This can create a greater disconnect between handwriting styles and increase the chance of miscommunication.
You Might Miss Signs of Drug Abuse
Electronic prescribing systems make it easy for you to see your patient’s medication history when you write a prescription. When you do this, you might notice that the patient has recently been prescribed the same drug at another practice, which can be a sign of drug abuse. Many people who misuse prescription medication use “doctor shopping” to get more of the medication than what a single provider would prescribe for legitimate medical reasons. Catching this before you write a new prescription allows you to address the problem instead of inadvertently contributing to it.
Someone Might Alter Your Paper Prescription
Because they transfer the information directly from your office to the pharmacy, there’s no opportunity for someone to commit fraud with an electronic prescription. Someone abusing the medication might alter the prescription to increase the dosage or the number of pills for example. While it’s less common, some people obtain controlled substances to abuse by stealing prescription pads and forging prescriptions. Helping to make electronic prescribing the norm reduces the risk of these forgeries and the resulting drug abuse.
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You Might Overlook a Contraindication
Electronic prescribing systems can automatically flag potential problems with a medication for a particular patient. This can help prevent dangerous situations for your patients. For example, if a patient doesn’t give you a complete list of their medications and you prescribe a treatment without realizing that it interacts with something else the patient is taking, your electronic prescribing system can catch this before the patient actually takes the two medications. This can also identify cases where a patient has a recorded allergy to a medication, is pregnant and considering a medication that’s risky during pregnancy or is already taking a medication that should be treating a particular symptom. Ideally, conversations with patients will cover all of these situations, but there are several reasons this might not happen, so electronic prescribing provides a useful backup.
You’ll Probably Waste Time and Money
Since you’re already required to use EPCS in certain situations, it’s most efficient to use electronic prescribing for all prescriptions unless there’s a specific reason not to do so. Using the same system for all your prescriptions means you don’t need to switch back and forth, which takes extra time and increases the risk of errors. While electronic prescriptions take slightly longer than handwritten ones, the increase is minimal – only around 20 seconds per patient. However, providers ultimately save the time and money they would have spent on follow-up calls with pharmacies, fixing mistakes and recording prescription information.
You Might Make Filling a Prescription More Difficult for Your Patients
Electronic prescriptions are more convenient for patients, which can make it easier for them to actually take the medication you’ve recommended. With EPCS, they don’t need to keep track of the paper prescription. They’ll also usually spend less time at the pharmacy since they’ll be able to wait until the prescription has been filled to pick it up. Medications prescribed electronically are more likely to be approved by insurance companies, which saves both you and the patient the time and stress associated with following up on a denied claim.
How to Avoid These Consequences
If you want to avoid these consequences, NewCrop Rx’s electronic prescribing tools are an excellent solution. We provide all the features you need to work more efficiently, comply with changing EPCS regulations and improve patient safety. Our system works seamlessly with almost any EHR, which combines all the information you need into one interface. Access formulary and insurance information, check for drug interactions, send prior authorizations, review patient medical history and print out or email educational materials for your patients within the same convenient system. To see how NewCrop Rx’s e-prescribing system can help you make faster, better patient care decisions, schedule a demo today.