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It’s time to dispense with the prescription pad

It’s time to dispense with the prescription pad

One of the big limitations of Canada’s system of medication management is that healthcare providers do not see a complete record of patient medications. Physicians are not privy to prescriptions written by specialists, hospitals or walk-in clinics. Meanwhile, pharmacists do not see prescriptions filled in other pharmacies.

Today, technology is changing how we communicate, work and live. It is also changing the way Canadians manage their health, including their prescriptions. Sadly, for most Canadians, medication history is known only to the patient – who may share this information by means of a hurriedly jotted down list, or a bag filled with the contents of a medicine cabinet. Even then, it may not be documented unless the practitioner takes the time to input it into an EMR.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Closing the prescription gap

To tackle medication management challenges in Canada, we must break down the silos between physicians, pharmacists and patients. All members of a patient’s care team, including the patient, should have access to a complete and accurate medication profile to ensure proper medication adherence and better health outcomes.

It starts with retiring the prescription pad and enabling nationwide electronic prescribing capabilities. Many countries have moved beyond paper prescriptions to e-prescriptions. In England, 43% of prescriptions are electronic. In the United States, it’s 73%, and in Denmark, more than 99% of prescriptions are electronic.

What is preventing the adoption of electronic prescriptions in Canada?

The biggest barrier to the adoption of e-prescribing is that each province is responsible for its own healthcare system. Understandably, provincial systems vary greatly across the country.

In some provinces, regulations and patient confidentiality agreements make data sharing between pharmacists and physicians challenging. Unless the patient willingly (and accurately) shares prescription information, there is potential for considerable gaps in a patient’s medication history.

Some provinces have created drug repositories with a complete record of medications dispensed within their borders. But utilization of these data sources is limited due to onerous or no system access. Furthermore, these repositories lack information about unfilled prescriptions or discontinued medications, rendering them useless for addressing the issue of poor drug adherence.

As information technology has become increasingly important for coordinated and effective care delivery, each province has developed its own requirements and standards. This patchwork of systems has made it challenging and expensive to manage, maintain and expand into a national solution. But we are beginning to see signs of progress.

Bringing electronic prescribing to the nation

Launched in 2017, PrescribeIT™ is a powerful electronic prescribing service offered by Canada Health Infoway that facilitates communications between prescribers and pharmacists. It is a complimentary service available to TELUS Health subscribers using a PS Suite, Med Access or Wolf EMR.

With PrescribeITTM, a physician receives automatic notification in the EMR when a prescription is filled by the pharmacy, allowing the medication profile to display adherence information. Similarly, when a physician discontinues a medication, a stop order is sent to the pharmacy, removing it from the active list in the pharmacy management system (PMS).

The benefits of using an electronic prescribing solution like PrescribeITTM include:

  • Prescribing from your EMR – Generate and send e-prescriptions directly from your EMR to the pharmacy of your patient’s choice for safer prescribing with little workflow disruption.
  • Providing better care – Increase medication adherence and patient safety by communicating directly with pharmacists and have prescriptions arrive at the pharmacy before patients do.
  • Reducing prescription fraud – Minimize fraud potential by digitally transmitting prescriptions, including narcotics, directly to pharmacies.

Provinces, pharmacies, hospitals and physicians need to put electronic prescriptions at the top of their priority list in a coordinated effort to improve the performance of our healthcare system. Many lives are depending on it.

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