Ironically, the law makes it impossible for the patient to comparison-shop for price or anything else such as availability, formulation, or store hours. Electronic prescribing will likely work well when patients have a long-standing relationship with a particular pharmacy. Unfortunately, this description doesn’t apply to many of the ED patients we treat.
There clearly are potential advantages to electronic prescribing, as anyone who’s had a prescription forged or a pad stolen can attest to. However, the potential harm to our ED patients, who often don’t have an ongoing relationship with a nearby pharmacy and are likely to receive a one-time prescription that needs to be filled quickly for an acute condition, seems to have been ignored.
Electronic prescribing is a reasonable option for both patients and clinicians, particularly in the office or clinic setting. But mandating it for ED providers and patients isn’t reasonable; it’s a (nonelectronic) prescription for inefficiency and confusion—a textbook example of misguided health policy.
Dr. Heller, Dr. Patel (resident), and Dr. Rose are all at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Department of Emergency Medicine and are affiliated with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.