Rx for e-prescriptions

Quality researchers to address benefits and challenges of e-prescriptions

By: Laura Castro

UF Health will soon provide classes that address and counteract common problems associated with electronic prescribing. Electronic prescriptions, or e-prescriptions, enable providers to quickly, safely and effectively order medications for patients. The process eliminates errors associated with handwritten prescriptions, such as illegible script, and improves patient safety and quality of care.

E-prescribing is used throughout UF Health at UF Health Shands, UF Health Physicians outpatient practices and UF Health pharmacies. Providers enter prescriptions into Epic, an electronic medical record system that processes orders and sends them to a pharmacy for staff or patients to collect.

However, switching from handwritten to electronic prescriptions is a more complex process than simply shifting communication to an online medium. Because of this, a team of UF Health Physicians quality and medication safety researchers are developing continuing education classes for UF Health Shands pharmacists and providers. Courses are slated to begin later
this year. 

“It’s crucial to understand that the system is vastly more complicated than it appears,” said Anzeela Schentrup, Pharm.D., Ph.D., C.P.H., BCPS, a clinical assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy and UF Health Physicians director of ambulatory clinical quality. “There’s more to the process than putting information online. Epic fuses technology and security, providing both quality-improvement triumphs and new complications to overcome.”

Benefits include alerts to irregularities, access to insurance information, managed medication costs, reduced wait times and increased patient satisfaction.

However, the system is susceptible to errors that pharmacists are left to catch. Differing medication instructions is a common problem associated with e-prescribing. 

“For example, for some medications, when providers enter a prescription, directions for taking the medication are automatically filled by Epic,” said Omjoy Ganesh, Ph.D., Pharm. D., C.P.H., a UF Health Physicians and College of Pharmacy health care quality and safety fellow. “If doctors write their own set of instructions specifically for the patient and don’t delete the automatically generated directions, the pharmacy will receive two sets of conflicting guides.”

The classes will explore issues providers and pharmacists face with e-prescribing and equip attendees with the knowledge to correct them. More information about the courses will be available in the coming months. 

“Our goal is to help them better understand the e-prescription system so they have the tools to deal with potential problems,” Schentrup said. “It’s our job to ensure the system is continually working to provide the highest quality care for our patients.”