When you would go to the doctor for a prescription, you would be given a paper script to hand over to the pharmacy. And for years it has been a chore for many patients and pharmacists to try and decipher what is actually written on that script. While doctors’ illegible handwriting has become somewhat of a joke, it can lead to serious problems if a patient is given the wrong dosage or the wrong medication entirely. New York State has now taken steps to try to correct this problem by making electronic prescriptions mandatory.
As of March 27, 2016, healthcare professionals are required by law to stop using paper prescription pads and to electronically send prescriptions for patients to pick up at the pharmacy of their choice. The new law affects not only doctors, but also dentists, podiatrists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, optometrists and midwives. There are some exceptions to the rule and there is a grace period for doctors who are continuing to move forward with the switch from paper to computer.
The rule was passed in 2012 as part of a new law known as I-Stop, intended to control prescription fraud. The first step was to setup on online database for doctors to check on controlled substance prescriptions being filled such as opioid pain killers. The next step was to go completely digital with the prescription process for all types of medication. Not only will it cut down on possible fraud, but the state attorney general wants to “reduce errors resulting from misinterpretation of handwriting.” Especially since New York State has reported that around 20% of the deaths from medication errors every year stem from the misreading of written prescriptions.
New York State is taking medication errors and prescription abuse so seriously that it is the only state in the nation to punish doctors who fail to comply with e-prescriptions with penalties, fines and even imprisonment. Minnesota is the lone state besides New York that has an e-prescription mandate with only six other states even considering it. Until it becomes standard practice across the country, the public should continue to pay close attention to the medication prescribed to them. If you or a loved one has suffered an illness or injury due to a medication error, please contact the knowledgeable attorneys at Finz & Finz, P.C., to hold the responsible parties accountable for their costly mistakes.