Technology in the Pharmacy

I love when technology makes life easier.  New processes and inventions come along that are so much better that nobody would dream of returning to the old way of doing things.

Bulldozers and other earth moving equipment took the place of wheelbarrows & shovels for building roads.  Executive secretaries now run word processing software on a computer instead of generating letters using typewriters and carbon paper.  Doctors offices use a scheduling database instead of the old giant scheduling books.  Western Union doesn’t have much call for telegrams now that phones are so common.  New, efficient technology replaces the old, and people are happy to make the switch because it makes their lives so much easier.

That said, I don’t think we’re there yet with e-scripts.  The general concept with electronic prescriptions is that when a doctor writes a script, that information is simultaneously sent to the pharmacy and entered in a patient’s medical record.

If pharmacists and doctors were all ecstatic over how e-scripts solve a bunch of problems and make their lives easier, maybe I’d re-think my position.  They’re not, though, so I’d rather hand-carry my prescription to the pharmacy.

  1. I know it gets to the right place if I deliver the prescription myself.
  2. I know what the prescription says if I have it in my hand.
  3. I can keep a copy for my records and can refer back to it if the instructions on the bottle of pills that I’m given doesn’t match up to what the doctor told me to take.
  4. I can tell the pharmacist when I still have half an old bottle left, so he doesn’t need to fill this new prescription from a different doctor until the old bottle is gone.
  5. The pharmacist doesn’t need to do the work of filling meds I can get OTC if the prescription is for something that’s available both ways.

Doctors can still enter prescriptions into their computerized records.  It’s simple to print the prescription instead of sending it to the pharmacy wirelessly:  same result from the doctor’s point of view, better results from mine.

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3 thoughts on “Technology in the Pharmacy

  1. Thanks for this post. I have mixed feelings about this and your concerns echo many of my own. There are a couple more. The first is what if you decide not to take the drug. Not only patient compliance issues, but if the doctor says, “I’m going to give you a prescription … if you decide you need it (i.e., for pain), or if the condition gets worse.” If you don’t need it, the prescription is on your medical record anyway, even if you don’t pick it up at the pharmacy. The second is cost. I know that many people on fixed income may not be able to afford the medication or may only be able to afford a week at a time. When the doctor forwards the prescription, it’s usually for 30 or 90 days, whereas if a person hands in a written prescription, they can request a week of medication instead of a month. I also know that some people have multiple pharmacies — because different pharmacies have different prices for the same drug. You don’t know which you want to use until you can research the prices.

    I personally haven’t had any issues, but our doctor sent one of my husband’s prescriptions to the wrong pharmacy and it tooks us about three days and multiple calls between the pharmacies and the doctor (when he should have been on antibiotics) to figure it out.

    • Good point with the cost of medicine. I remember taking a prescription to the pharmacy to be filled back when I was uninsured That was back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, and I was earning $5 per hour; the medicine was $8 per pill. I think I bought two days worth and that cleaned out my checking account. For people who who have to do cost comparison on every script, then e-prescribing would be aggravating.

      The only time I’ve been offered e-prescribing option was when I took my kids to the travel medicine clinic before their trip to Guatemala. The resident asked, “Which pharmacy do you want us to send this to?” and I replied, “I’d like a piece of paper to take the the pharmacy of my choosing.” Problem solved. Along with another point you made: what if your prescription is a “fill it if you need it” thing? The travel med doctor wrote for two different anti-malarials and said we could pick whichever one we wanted because she thought one was more expensive than the other, but we wouldn’t know until we tried to fill it at the pharmacy. The pharmacy didn’t need to fill both prescriptions; I just needed to know the price before deciding which one to fill: $70 vs $10. Imagine if that had just arrived in the pharmacy without any explanation.

  2. We have been using E-scripts for a year now. We must not forget about all the phone calls you get at closing because the patient got to the pharmacy to pick up their script just to find out that the prescription is stuck in limbo sowhere. So the the patient is irritated, the pharmacy has had to waste their time trying to figure out if it came or not, and the office is doing a last minute scramble trying to get it called in the old fashioned way. Oh and what if the patient changes their mind after leaving the doctors office and wants to use a different pharmacy. That is another hassle all in itself. All that said, most of the kinks eventually work themselves out, but there are still days when I long to just be handing that little piece of paper over to my patient.

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