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E-prescription pad becomes reality

A partnership between the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) and Quilogy, a provider of emerging technology solutions, has yielded an electronic prescription pad for physicians. The software will be rolled out in the coming months.

The pad was designed to provide MMS physicians with a free tool to enter patient prescription information and augment safety by being able to write and preview prescriptions on the pad before being filled.

Patient safety is a major benefit, especially in light of an Institute of Medicine study that said 44,000 to 98,000 patient deaths occur yearly as a result of misread prescriptions and fatal medication interactions.

"Writing prescriptions can often be complex, and this pad will provide a way for physicians to communicate directly with pharmacies to ensure all prescription information is correct and current," said MMS president Dr Thomas Sullivan.

Along with patient safety improvements, the pad will increase efficiency by enabling physicians and staff members to perform several prescription-related functions rapidly.

"With the pad, nurses and administrative staffers can enter prescription renewals and tee up prescriptions for physicians to sign off," said Alex Paytuvi, managing consultant for Quilogy. "Then they are directed to a fax queue to be sent to a pharmacy. 

"Physicians can review the information in the queue to accept and/or deny prescription information, look up patient history, and modify the prescription before it is sent to the pharmacy. Changes can be made to these prescriptions as needed," Paytuvi added.

A physician can use the software to review an active medications list for a specific patient. When the prescription is written, the physician accesses a lookup form with outgoing prescription order information, including patient and physician names and contact information, drug prescribed and instructions.

A digital-ink image of the physician's signature is used to verify all prescription information. Signatures of MMS physicians using the pad are cross-referenced with the MMS database to verify that the physician is in good standing.

When the approval process is complete, a Microsoft Word document is created and faxed to a pharmacy via a web service. This document contains all relevant prescription information. While sounding like a complex series of steps, it can happen in seconds, depending on how long it takes for the physician to review the patient information.

Physicians can access the pad by downloading it from the MMS website to a tablet, notebook, or desktop PC. The pad runs on Windows XP-based platforms and works with Office System 11 and Microsoft Access.

"So far, we like what we have with this," Sullivan said. "We are planning on increasing front- and back-end connectivity with health plans and pharmacies. Adding comprehensive web services for medication lists and machine-to-machine connectivity are also part of taking the next step."

Sullivan stated he would like this initiative to be a prototype for medical organisations throughout the US, when the pad is more fully functional. "Developing a system to facilitate prescriptions is very complicated, and having more functionality is a major part of our plan."

Development was made possible through a $25,000 grant awarded to both organisations from Microsoft earlier this year.

Jeff Berman writes for Health-IT World


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