Electronic prescribing ("e-prescribing") is the generation of a medical prescription through use of an automated data entry system rather than the traditional method of a handwritten prescription on a piece of paper.
E-prescribing is promoted as a way to reduce costs and errors. However, critics site new types of severe errors and unintended consequences that can result from e-prescribing, as described by reporter M.L. Baker of the Ziff Davis Internet:
- Doctors might pick the wrong patient on a selection menu. In many cases, such an error would cause additional work. However, if a prescription is mailed to the wrong patient, the consequences could be much more serious.
- Doctors using computerized entry might also slip on menus for selecting a diagnosis or medication regimen, particularly if drug names are similar.
- Forcing doctors through a series of menu choices can increase the time it takes to write the prescriptions, perhaps causing them to rush other tasks.
- If a system uses the same codes for both diagnosis and billing, clinically important distinctions might not be recorded or, worse, doctors may be tempted to select diagnoses that will ensure a prescription is accepted more quickly.
- Decision support systems and dose calculations could prevent doctors from prescribing a drug that might endanger a particular patient. However, systems that send out false alarms or rely on data that is available only intermittently will either be ignored by physicians or could even suggest prescriptions that could harm patients.
- In addition, systems might limit the choice of drugs with formulary lists or, for physicians that dispense medications from their offices, with in-house inventory.