Published March 20, 2016 Associated Press
NEW YORK – The scribbled, cryptic doctor’s prescription is headed toward eradication in New York, where the nation’s toughest paperless-prescribing requirement takes effect this month.
Instead of handing patients slips of paper, physicians soon must electronically send orders directly to pharmacies for everything from antibiotics to cholesterol pills to painkillers, with some exceptions. Otherwise, prescribers face the possibility of fines, license loss or even jail.
The requirement is meant to fight painkiller abuse, reduce errors and expand a practice that doctors and patients often find convenient. But physicians say digital scripts can present roadblocks for some patients and doctors shouldn’t have to fear punishment over a prescription format.
“When it works, it’s seamless,” says New York County Medical Society President Dr. Michael T. Goldstein, an ophthalmologist who issues many prescriptions electronically himself. “But there are circumstances where it doesn’t work, and patients suffer.”
E-prescribing has surged nationwide in recent years amid a push to digitize medical records. About 60 percent of scripts are now sent electronically, said Paul Uhrig, chief administrative officer of Surescripts, the leading network for transmitting e-prescriptions.
Every state now allows e-prescribing, but only New York has a broad requirement that carries penalties. Minnesota requires the use of electronic prescribing but doesn’t specify how much or set penalties.
Digital prescribing thwarts prescription-slip forgery and theft and saves time for patients who otherwise have to drop off scripts. The secured systems also let doctors look up a patient’s other medications and insurance particulars before ordering a drug.
The convenience appeals to patients like Christine Smith, a 44-year-old mother of two from Plainview, on New York’s Long Island.
“I like them sending it, so I don’t have to carry it. It’s one less responsibility for me to worry about,” she said.