STRONG PRESSURES ARE MOTIVATING office-based physicians to adopt electronic ordering for prescriptions. In part, this is because of the drive to eliminate unnecessary medical errors.
Estimates are that 6% of the nation’s physicians now use an electronic method to order prescriptions for their patients. Consulting firms Fulcrum Analytics, Inc. and Deloitte Research predict that, within the next three years, more than 20% of physicians will be ordering prescriptions electronically.
This shift is moving physicians from a paper-based prescription ordering system to one that is electronic. It is comparable to how laboratories moved physicians’ offices from paper-based lab test requisitions to computer-generated requisitions during the 1990s.
The next evolution for electronic laboratory test ordering is to move physicians’ offices away from DOS-based computer systems and onto Web-browser-based systems. To achieve this will require software which is simpler and faster in operation, as well as more broadband connections in physicians’ offices.
Parallel Trend With Lab
The trend toward electronic pharmacy ordering has many parallels with how the laboratory industry introduced DOS-based laboratory test ordering 12 years ago. Most pharmacies are not equipped to handle prescription and refill orders sent by physicians over the Internet. For this reason, most electronic pharmacy ordering systems convert the prescription into a fax which is then transmitted to the pharmacy. In some cases, physicians are ordering prescriptions through their computerized system, then handing the patient a print-out of the prescription to take to their pharmacy.
Still Using Fax Machines
At this time, pharmacies themselves are a barrier to greater adoption of electronic pharmacy ordering. That’s because relatively few pharmacies in the United States are equipped to handle prescriptions transmitted via the Internet. Fax machines continue to be the most common method of receiving pharmacy orders.
This situation is expected to change rapidly. Growing numbers of pharmacies are actively investing to become Internet-capable. As this occurs, another barrier to wider use of electronic pharmacy ordering will be eliminated.
Lab executives and pathologists should track the growth of electronic pharmacy ordering in physicians’ offices. As more physicians become comfortable with ordering prescriptions electronically, it is logical to assume that they will also become more comfortable using Web browser-based systems for lab test ordering and results reporting.
For this reason, the growth of electronic ordering for prescriptions may stimulate physicians to also begin using Web browser-based systems to order laboratory tests.