Prescriptions Becoming Paperless, NY Law Making It Mandatory Takes Effect


Just five years ago, people got a written prescription from their doctor and physically took the slip to a pharmacy to fill. However, nowadays, the prescription pad is going the way of the checkbook. So are the old jokes about not being able to read what a doctor wrote. More than 70 percent of medication orders were filed electronically by 2014 across the U.S., Now, New York has become the biggest state requiring paperless prescriptions as a new mandatory e-prescribing law takes effect this week.

Heralded as the nation’s toughest e-prescription law, the New York law requiring doctors, dentists and others prescribing medications to submit them to pharmacies electronically took effect on Sunday, March 27. Under the new law, paper prescriptions or attempts to phone them in will no longer be accepted at pharmacies in New York state.

New York does offer some exceptions for medical emergencies and for nursing homes, and some doctors have been granted an extension of the deadline. Additional exceptions exist for drugs that need compounding or very detailed instructions, or those being issued as part of a research protocol. Otherwise, prescription pads are passé.

The move toward electronic prescriptions is part of an initiative called ISTOP, which stands for Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing. ISTOP was established to keep better track of who is prescribing and who it receiving addictive painkillers like Percocet and Vicodin. They want to reduce the ability for patients to “doctor shop” to get more drugs. Eradicating paper eliminates many stolen or forged prescription schemes. Additionally, patients can no longer alter amounts on prescriptions.

There are a variety of software vendors involved in the e-prescribing arena. Many offer customizable Web-based solutions that can be integrated with Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems and accessed easily via mobile, so a doctor can take a call anywhere from a patient and submit a prescription easily.

Many doctors offices have objected to the new requirement, claiming that it is more time consuming for them and forces them to adopt or subscribe to new technology services. However, e-prescriptions are widely used and have been shown to increase efficiency, reduce pharmacist to physician follow-up calls, and improve patient safety by eliminating the issues and errors involved in interpreting doctors’ handwriting

Minnesota was a national leader, mandating electronic prescribing effective January 2011. Iowa and Massachusetts had reached a point in April 2014 were over 94 percent of their physicians were e-prescribing. In several other states, more than 80 percent of prescriptions are electronically submitted, but those states tend to be smaller in size. By 2013, 57 percent of new and renewal prescriptions nationwide were sent electronically.

However, the four largest states, in terms of prescription volume – California, Florida, New York and Texas – were below the national average. In California, doctors do not have to use electronic filing, but all pharmacies are capable of receiving the prescriptions. In addition, nationally, there are incentive payments for Medicare providers who reach e-prescribing and/or EMR thresholds. Given the new New York law that take effect this week making it mandatory for paperless prescriptions, that state will quickly become an example for others.

Written and Edited by Dyanne Weiss

NY State Department of Health: Mandatory Electronic Prescribing Effective Date Extended to March 27, 2016
NY Daily News: New York’s tough paperless prescription law takes effect
CBS News: Pros and cons of electronic prescriptions
Healthcare IT News: Medical Society of New York State calls for leeway from new e-prescribing law
Healthcare IT News: E-Prescribing Trends in the United States

Photo by Ragesoss – Creative Commons license

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