Looming e-prescribing mandate giving docs pause

Doctors have mixed views on the New York state law that mandates e-prescribing, according to a story from the Associated Press.

"It is a good thing to make electronic prescribing ever more available," American Medical Association President Steven Stack, M.D., told the AP. However, he added that it should not have to be required all the time. 

The I-STOP Act goes into effect in New York on March 27. It is designed to thwart painkiller abuse, reduce errors and make getting a prescription more convenient.

While about 60 percent of prescriptions nationally are transmitted to the pharmacy digitally, according to Surescripts, New York will be the first state to mandate e-prescribing and impose penalties for doctors who don't comply. However, doctors say they shouldn't have to fear punishment over a prescription format.

Digital prescriptions also could pose roadblocks in some cases, according to the AP. A prescription could be sent to the wrong pharmacy or be out of stock when the patient arrives to pick it up. Rather than taking a paper script to another pharmacy, the patient then has to contact the doctor to fix that.

It's also harder for patients to shop around for better prices without a paper prescription in hand, Joseph Maldonado, M.D., president of the Medical Society of the State of New York, told the AP.

Additionally, recent research has found that vague, ambiguous or conflicting patient directions in the notes field of e-prescribing systems can hamper pharmacy workflow and result in dispensing errors.

Paper or phone prescriptions are allowed during emergencies, and new exceptions to the law have been added this week, such as nursing home staffers phoning in prescriptions after hours. The state Senate also passed a proposal to exempt doctors who write very few prescriptions, according to the AP.

All states have now legalized the e-prescribing of controlled substances, but New York leads the nation in the number of prescribers actually doing so.

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