Electronic Prescriptions Help Prevent Drug Abuse

Back when doctors only wrote prescriptions with pen and paper, forgeries were a problem.

(Dr. Brandon Price, St. Alexius Family Practice Provider/Chief Medical Informatics Officer):  "You can maybe scratch out a zero, and add an 8, or something to increase the pills a patient was getting.”

(Van):  Now, doctors like Brandon Price of St. Alexius are moving to electronic prescriptions.

(Rick Detwiller, St. Alexius Director of Outpatient Pharmacy Services):  "If you were to attempt a forgery or adulterate an electronic prescription, they would obviously have to have access to the database. The databases are quite secure.”

Rick Detwiller is the director of outpatient pharmacy services at St. Alexius. He says there are extra stringent rules to fill prescriptions of controlled substances, like oxycodone or morphine.

(Van):  “For controlled prescriptions, it still has to be printed out on paper, but this paper is tamper-proof, so if you try to photocopy it, it turns out as invalid."

(Van):  But even if you're not purposely abusing prescription medications, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that accidental overdose deaths have risen 300 percent since 1999.

Electronic prescriptions processed through the national database Sure Scripts helps doctors keep track of multiple medications, even if they're prescribed by someone else.

(Dr. Price):  "Nowadays, I can prescribe a medication on the computer, and it will alert me if the patient has an allergy to that medication. Or if the patient already has a medication in that class, it will also catch that and alert the user that maybe that's not the appropriate medication to use, which is very helpful. We didn't have that in the old paper and pen days.”

(Van):  Price and Detwiller also say electronic prescriptions are more efficient. They're submitted to the pharmacy within five minutes, and the information is always legible.

Van Tieu, Reporting