The pros, the cons and how patients and medical professionals are affected by the New York State mandate.
By Nora Horvath
As of March 27, 2016, all prescriptions in New York State are required to be submitted to pharmacies electronically. Although healthcare providers and pharmacies have had access to paperless prescription services for some medications previously, this new e-prescribe legislation not only mandates participation but also includes narcotics and other controlled substances into the system that previously were prescribed only on paper. To explain what these changes mean for patients, we spoke with Renee Garrick, MD, Executive Medical Director, and Joanne Murphy, RN, Manager of Clinical Information Systems, at Westchester Medical Center, the flagship of the Westchester Medical Health Network.
Q: Why are these changes coming to the state prescription system?
Murphy: It had to do with controlling drug diversion and fraud for controlled substances. E-prescribe has been in place for quite a while but was mainly used for non-controlled medications. Prior to this mandate, controlled substances were written on special New York State prescription pads. Being handwritten, they were still subject to fraud. A patient could easily modify a prescription; for example, changing the dispensing amount from 15 to 75 pills.
Q: What are the benefits?
Murphy: There are numerous positive changes. It eliminates illegible prescriptions, reduces oral miscommunications, and gives the physician access to the patient’s complete medication history. The patient also benefits by decreased wait times at the pharmacy.”
Q: Are there any challenges to this new system?
Garrick: Because e-prescribing requires a computer, if a patient reaches a physician nights or weekends or any time a computer is not available, there is a chance the prescription may be delayed. If a physician phones in a prescription, the physician will need to notify the state and explain to the state why e-prescribing was not used.
Q: Are there any prescriptions exempt from this program?
Garrick: Yes. There are a few exemptions to e-prescribing, for example, complex prescriptions, including chemotherapy drugs. Other examples are drugs that need to be mixed by the pharmacy and drugs that require different doses each day.”
Q: What about cybersecurity? Are there any risks?
Murphy: Risk has been greatly reduced by implementing special security software that has been certified by the Department of Health and Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement. •