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Understanding e-Prescribing

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E-Prescribing (eRx) is the generation and filling of a prescription transmitted electronically to a pharmacy. E-Prescribing systems can be utilized as a stand-alone system or within an EHR system. Although stand-alone eRx systems have been made available, an integrated eRx module is now required for any certified EHR system. An integrated EHR module allows the provider to make more informed decisions because the patient chart information is readily available.

eRx systems are required to:

  • Print and electronically transmit prescriptions
  • Conduct safety checks including alerts for drug information, inappropriate dosing, route of administration, drug-drug interactions, allergy concerns and warning
  • Produce formulary medications, patient eligibility and authorization requirements information based on the patient's drug plan
  • Generate an active medication list from pharmacy drug plans
  • Provide available lower cost alternatives.

How does it work?

The EHR utilizes a secure e-Prescribing Network to transmit the prescription information. The network provides real-time decision support information such as prescription eligibility, benefit, formulary and medication history information (for patients who give their consent) to authorized physicians at the point of care. When the physician has made an informed decision regarding the drug of choice, the prescription is transmitted electronically to the patient's choice of pharmacies. See the diagram below to see how the information is transmitted.

Benefits of an eRx

  • Improved Quality of Care: Access to patient medication and medical history along with alerts will assist in identifying drug inappropriateness. Clinical Decision support systems perform drug-drug interaction, drug-allergy interaction, dosing, diagnoses, age, weight, and drug appropriateness checks. The elimination of oral miscommunications and illegible handwriting prevent prescription errors. Patients can be identified during drug recalls in a more timely fashion to avoid potential health hazards. Additionally, providers and pharmacists can obtain the frequency and types of medication being prescribed to the patients.
  • Increased Efficiencies: Significant amounts of time is saved for both providers and pharmacists because back and forth call-backs due to the elimination of illegible handwriting and mistaken prescriptions. The reduction of faxing will free up resources to perform other important functions in the office and also reduces paper and ink expenses. The prescription renewal process is automated allowing for the electronic generation, approval/denial and response to refill request. eRx gives providers the convenience of prescribing when using a mobile device and wireless network.
  • Patient Convenience: After enduring the wait in the waiting room, the wait for the doctor in the exam room and then finally the consultation, the patient has to take the extra step of having to drive the paper prescription to the pharmacy. Once at the pharmacy, the patient has to wait for the prescription to be filled. With eRx, patient wait time is dramatically reduced because once the provider has electronically submitted the prescription to the patient pharmacy of choice; the prescription will likely be available for pickup once the patient has arrived at the pharmacy. Patients also benefit from decreased costs due to generic substitution recommendations provided by the system.


Related Terms and Acronyms

  • CMS - Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
  • eRx – E-Prescribe
  • NCPDP - National Council for Prescription Drug Programs
  • NEPSI - National ePrescribing Patient Safety Initiative

Last updated: April 9, 2013

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