Prescriptions are the currency of the medical world. The slips of paper that confuse us, yet are meant for our benefits are now illegal in New York State. According to a new law, prescribers – which not only include doctors but also dentists, are now legally obligated to use e-prescriptions from here on out.
Quite simply, e-prescriptions are electronically delivered prescriptions. The doctor electronically sends the prescription to the required pharmacy. This, they argue, would result in fewer prescription errors and an opportunity to thwart prescription forgery. The question is, though, will it work?
Doctors writing is notoriously difficult to understand. And this doesn’t come without consequences. Over 300 deaths and more than one million injuries result from this style of handwriting. Advocates of the New York state law argue that these deaths and injuries would be, at the very least, curbed in the short and long-term.
It’s not only patient safety that lies at the heart of this legislation. Crime, too, has played an important role. Prescriptions are frequently forged, or adapted in some way to acquire addictive painkillers. Proponents of the law argue that these forgeries would stop, and the attempt to obtain painkillers would dry up, thus alleviating a source of crime.
There are other reasons the affected this change. E-prescriptions are a quick and easy method to deliver prescriptions directly to the pharmacy and don’t require the patient to transfer it from A to B. Pharmacists also find it easier, not least because they have time (in advance) to prepare the prescription for the patient.
So why are there so many opponents to the legislation?
What The Skeptics Say
The sceptics argue that while the law is reasonable in theory, it wouldn’t work in practice. They argue that prescribers could easily choose the wrong medicine from a computer generated list, or that the wrong medicine could be chosen due to similarities in spelling. Sceptics also say that computers cannot be relied upon, and can fail, and this would, in turn, fail the patient.
There is another element to their argument, and that is the punishment that backs up the crime. Prescribers who flout the law could face either a fine, stripped of their license, or even jailed. They argue that the punishment is not proportionate to the ‘crime’. Sceptics say that e-prescriptions are a good idea, and should be used, but they should not be the sole form of prescription, and their use should not be enforced.
Only time will tell whether this new legislation has the impact its proponents so eagerly expect.