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New York prescriptions go digital to combat opioid abuse

"Paper prescriptions had become a form of criminal currency."

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On March 27th, New York State residents will no longer need to decipher their doctor's terrible handwriting, thanks to a switch from paper to electronic prescriptions. The new phase is part of a 2012 law called I-Stop aimed at slowing the massive prescription medication addition problem. According to the state officials, the number of deaths related to Oxycodone, Hydrocodone and other opioid meds nearly quadrupled to 1,227 between 2004 and 2013.

A big part of the problem is handwritten doctor "scrips," which are hard to track and can be changed or forged. "Paper prescriptions had become a form of criminal currency that could be traded even more easily than the drugs themselves," attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman told the NY Times. "By moving to a system of e-prescribing, we can curb the incidence of these criminal acts and also reduce errors resulting from misinterpretation of handwriting on good-faith prescriptions."

By moving to a system of e-prescribing, we can curb the incidence of these criminal acts and also reduce errors resulting from misinterpretation of handwriting on good-faith prescriptions.

Patients must first choose a pharmacy where the prescription will be sent or pick from a list provided by the software. That created some controversy, as folks can no longer shop for the cheapest deals or shortest waiting times. During trials, however, problems were few and patients reportedly liked the fact that prescriptions are sent to pharmacies ahead of time. Nations like Australia, Canada and many parts of Europe are either mulling or have already implemented similar systems.

The state of Minnesota also enacted an e-prescription law, but New York's has more teeth -- physicians there who don't comply can be fined or jailed. As a result, hospitals are now rushing to register for the program and complete the extra security steps required to prescribe controlled opioid-based medications. If there are technical problems are other unusual circumstances, however, doctors can still write out scrips by hand, so don't completely forget how to read their hieroglyphics.

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