Last week I was visiting the offices of one of my clients, a small family practice in West Anaheim. I visit all different types of offices and each with their own level of technology in my travels.
After being there for over an hour, I recognized a "silence", something I don't always notice in other offices, and in this instance, it was a good silence, the fax machine! The office manager here, Christina, was on the ball and over a year ago, subscribed to and pays for an e-prescribing program for patient prescriptions. I asked her for a quick demonstration and she said "sure".
All patients who have prescriptions were already listed in the data base, so adding a new medication was very simple. In addition, there was another screen to add a new patient as well. She said this sure makes the process manageable and we don't have to keep buying huge supplies of ink for the fax machine too. She said there was a small learning curve at the beginning on both her part and the part of the drug stores. Keep in mind this has been over a year when she got started and things since this time have streamlined a bit more. She said part of the issues with the fax was getting a fax every month for patients who had been given a prescription open for 12 months. Each month, the pharmacy was sending her a fax to confirm it was still valid. Well if you add this up over many patients and a number of medications, you can just imagine the number of faxes that were arriving every day to confirm prescriptions that were more than 30 days! She said the fax machine was going non-stop.
Once moved over to the new e-prescribing, the requests continued to come, to the e-prescribing software. This was still a lot of work to confirm such a long list of medications every day even with the software. After a little work and communication with the pharmacies this also began to fall in to place, with the drug stores now knowing that if there is a cancellation of a prescription, they will be notified from the physician's office and the extra leg work on their part to confirm each month was no longer required.
She also has a history now of when the patient filled the prescription and received a confirmation that the script was received by the pharmacy. That is big help knowing that the patient has followed through. It also helps he keep track of the pharmacies used by the patient, so she can immediately see and trends or changes in where the patient usually fills their prescriptions. She said this sure makes life a whole lot easier not having to rely on a paper chart to coordinate patient medications as they are all in the data base.
The software also allows for filtering and drilling down specific information as well. All these features in the software are designed to save time. Again, the one nice thing as an outsider like me was the "silence of the fax" and not seeing an office in a state of chaos racing to the fax machine all day! This was definitely one nice move towards going paperless and says quite a bit on how e-prescribing can really make the day-to-day life in a physician's office a little bit easier for all.
As a footnote, on the left hand side of this page, there is a link to the National E-Prescribing initiative where ANY physician in the United States can begin E-prescribing for free, so there's no cost involved. This is paid for by grants from the likes of Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, to name a few. It involves a short training session via the web and then you are set and ready to go.
Again, I can't comment enough here not only on lack of the chatter of a fax machine, but I definitely saw something else going on here, as they all had more time to devote to the patient without having to spend this time on administrating a paper chase. BD