E-prescribing is a method by which we could improve patient care. E-prescribing helps to improve safety in prescribing many ways, as described here. One important way it helps is by eliminating the illegibility problem of many doctors’ handwriting. It also helps by providing a warning and alert system at the point of prescribing with the most updated information about a drug, thus helping to stop the filling of a prescription that may be unsafe.
Sen. Whitehouse will be chairing hearings on this subject tomorrow in Washington, D.C. From the Whitehouse press office:
Washington, D.C. â€“ U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) will chair a Senate hearing next week to explore a major barrier to improved health outcomes and cost savings in the health care system â€“ the federal prohibition on electronic prescribing of controlled substances.
While e-prescribing could reduce adverse drug events, increase adherence to prescription regimens, and save billions of dollars each year, federal regulations still require paper prescriptions for controlled substances often used to treat attention-deficit disorder, anxiety, pain, and other ailments. This requirement means that many doctors default to writing all prescriptions by hand, rather than maintaining two systems.
Whitehouse and the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear from federal regulators and health information technology experts on the progress of rule-making in this area and the potential benefits and challenges of an e-prescribing system for controlled substances.
EVENT: Sheldon Whitehouse Chairs Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on â€œElectronic Prescribing of Controlled Substances: Addressing Health Care and Law Enforcement Prioritiesâ€?
WHEN: Tuesday, December 4th
WHERE: Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 226
Witnesses at the Washington, D.C. event will include Laura Adams, President and CEO of the Rhode Island Quality Institute, an organization Whitehouse founded that is a leader in the stateâ€™s efforts to improve health care quality and health information technology utilization.
Whitehouse served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Rhode Island from 1994-98 and as the stateâ€™s Attorney General from 1999-2003. A longtime supporter of health information technology, he has introduced Senate legislation to establish a private, non-profit corporation tasked with developing a national, interoperable, secure health IT system (S. 1455).
While I am all in favor of better accuracy in prescription writing and filling, and believe that there is merit in public health tracking the use of prescriptions in order to see how safe and effective they are, a couple of major categories of concern come to mind right away:
1) Confidentiality — Will this make electronic information about patient pharmaceutical use more available to third parties? How would fraud be prevented?
2) Corporate Influence — Will this increase corporate influence from the pharmaceutical industry on people’s lives?
These are broad questions — probably not really answerable by anyone, but meant to provoke thought and discussion as e-prescribing moves forward.