Studies show that errors are much less likely when doctors send prescriptions to the pharmacy via computer. But the move to such e-prescriptions has been relatively slow.
AS e-mail and texting have become our favored means of written communication, handwriting has almost disappeared. Penmanship is becoming a modern form of hieroglyphics, intelligible only to literary scholars.
But one place where handwriting persists is on medical prescriptions, and that’s unfortunate. Sloppy writing or inappropriate directions can lead to what doctors delicately refer to as preventable A.D.E.’s, or adverse drug events. These can encompass minor but still avoidable problems, like rashes or diarrhea, and much more serious events like, well, death.
Studies show that errors are much less likely if a doctor clicks to select medications from an onscreen list and sends the prescription data via computer to the pharmacy. Rainu Kaushal, a professor of medical informatics at Weill Cornell Medical College, led a study published in 2010 in which she and four colleagues followed prescriptions issued by a sample of providers in outpatient settings in New York. (Providers included physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners.) Some were prescribing electronically for the first time, and some continued to use paper.
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