What do electronic prescriptions mean for consumers?
Electronic prescriptions became mandatory in the state of New York at the end of last month. The shift away from handwritten, paper prescriptions was sparked by prescription opioid abuse. It also aims to reduce prescription errors and integrate prescription information into electronic medical records.
As of April 2014, nine in ten community pharmacies in all 50 states were able to accept e-prescriptions. Between 2008 and 2013 the number of new and renewal prescriptions filled electronically increased 53 percent. Minnesota has mandated e-prescribing since 2011, but New York goes farther with their law, becoming the first state to penalize doctors who don’t comply with fines or jail time.
Clearly, e-prescribing has benefits, like minimizing potentially dangerous medication errors (doctors are notorious for illegible handwriting) and improving efficiency and cost-savings. An integrated database with prescription information may also help patients taking several medications avoid harmful drug interactions.
But how does e-prescribing affect consumers? In some ways, it may be more convenient, since the prescription is sent instantly and you don’t have to bring it to a pharmacy and wait for it to be filled. But an electronic prescription assumes a consumer will always use one pharmacy.
But when huge price variations exist from one pharmacy to the next within one city, e-scripts present a problem. In order to shop around, paper prescriptions are required. Likewise, if you’re importing prescription drugs from a legitimate international online pharmacy, they’ll need a copy of your paper prescription.
The good news is doctors can still write paper prescriptions if there’s a good reason to do so—such as affordability. They just have to make a note of this in the patient record. The bottom line is: don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about drug affordability and ask your doctor for a paper script. Here’s some more guidance on this issue.
Have you had to ask your doctor for a paper script? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.