Is e-Prescribing the New Frontier in Healthcare Technology?

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What is ePrescribing?

Electronic prescribing, or ePrescribing, describes a healthcare provider’s ability to electronically send prescription information to a pharmacy. Since ePrescribing eliminates the need for handwritten or faxed prescriptions and phone calls, there is less of a risk of error regarding inaccurate prescriptions or dosages. The nature of ePrescribing systems can alert doctors and pharmacists of dangerous drug interactions, generic alternatives, and patient insurance authorization requirements. Since physicians have complete patient information electronically available while prescribing, better decisions can be made about the most effective care. Some electronic systems can also notify doctors when patients have picked up prescriptions, allowing doctors to monitor patient compliance with medication.

The Need for Trained Professionals

Some resistance to ePrescribing exists regarding IT issues and the security of patient data. The lack of adequately trained IT professionals within the healthcare field has had a negative impact on the ePrescription field. The lack of training and awareness of the workings and functions of ePrescribing software, its security, applications, and overall cost-to-benefits has slowed the adoption of ePrescribing policies around the world. The need for experts that can train doctors, nurses, and pharmacists in the procedures and benefits of ePrescribing is at an all-time high. There is also a great need for experts that can understand the particular needs of the healthcare field and consult with IT professionals to develop better software and procedures for ePrescibing.

Growth Rate of ePrescriptions

In 2013, the ePrescribing market was valued at over $250 million and is expected to reach almost $888 million by 2019, a growth rate of 23.5 percent. Europe currently has the largest share of the ePrescribing market but North America, particularly the United States, is currently leading the growth in this area. Currently in the U.S., more than 70 percent of physicians ePrescribe and 96 percent of pharmacies are wired to accept ePrescriptions. Despite these high numbers, only 57 percent of all new and refilled prescriptions are being sent electronically and only 40 percent of states show physician ePrescribing rates above 70 percent (with three states — Minnesota, Iowa, and Massachusetts — above 95 percent). The four states with the highest number of prescriptions — California, Texas, New York and Florida — are all below the national average for ePrescribing. These numbers show that although the growth rate among ePrescribing is impressive, there still is room for improvement.

How Health Informatics Fits In

For a health informatics student, knowledge of ePrescribing is essential. Although all fields have informatics personnel, informatics personnel are especially vital in the health field, where patient information, accuracy, and quick decision-making can literally mean the difference between life and death. Having the knowledge to train healthcare professionals on ePresciption procedures and even be a part of improving ePrescription software can provide amazing benefits to both healthcare providers and patients. ePrescribing can assist physicians in detecting patient allergies to medications, prescription interactions, and making the best decisions regarding patient care. As a future health informatics professional, you can be an integral part of an exciting, new path in the field of medicine whose future growth potential is unlimited.