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Are Electronic Prescriptions Safer?

In New York, doctors are legally required to send prescriptions to pharmacies electronically instead of handing patients a handwritten prescription slip. The new program is called Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act (I-STOP). New York is the first state to make it mandatory with penalties (fines, loss of license and jail time), if doctors don’t do e-prescribing.

The focus of electronic prescriptions (or e-prescription) is to help fight prescription painkiller abuse and reduce errors (over-prescribing, transcription errors and wrongful use of prescription papers). Paper prescriptions could be tampered with, forged and even sold. In other cases, it is to prevent doctor impersonations, doctor shopping, and to improve poor penmanship.

Sceptics are concerned with system wide hacking and that doctors are still human and can make errors entering prescription information onto the computer.

Prescription and medication mistakes can often be prevented if medical and pharmacy staff members pay attention to proper procedures and precautions. According to The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2014, the total number of retail prescription drugs filled at pharmacies like Target, Public, Walgreens and CVS was 4,002,661,750. Florida had the third largest distribution with 248,850,279 following California and New York.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that Medication errors result in an estimated 7,000 deaths and 1.3 million injuries per year in the U.S. It is estimated that between 2.2 million and 3.7 million medication dispensing errors have occurred in the U.S. in each of the past eight years which caused serious health problems or death.

Common Medication and Prescription Errors

  • Wrong medication prescribed
  • Wrong medication dispensed
  • Incorrect dosing information
  • * Miscommunication between doctors and pharmacists
  • Wrong Instructions
  • Wrong Person
  • Wrong Warning Labels
  • Interacting Drugs & Side Affects
  • Inadequate Counseling
  • Mislabeled Drugs

Time will tell if I-STOP is working and if other states will adopt New York’s mandatory ruling. Until then, learn how to minimize your risk of medication errors.

Minimize Your Risk

To minimize your risk of a prescription error, you are encouraged to talk with your doctor about the medication being prescribe (purpose, side effects, now long to take). Always write down the name of the drug and the dosage so you can reconfirm when you pick up at pharmacy. Select a reputable pharmacy, get to know the staff, and talk to your pharmacist when you have questions or need clarification. Always check the label and open the bottle to make sure the medication matches. It’s also recommended that you avoid going to the pharmacist at the beginning of the month (statistically a busy time and medication errors are 25% higher) and avoid drive-up window (often leads to dispensing errors or pharmacy distraction).

Florida Laws and Regulations