January 18th, 2021

E-prescribing during the COVID pandemic

By Submitted Article on May 15, 2020.

Digital tool is improving patient safety in Lethbridge

Dr. Sherine Ibrahim

Physical distancing measures are working in Lethbridge. With just 13 COVID-19 cases to date, including 10 recoveries, our community has been largely spared the devastation we’ve seen in other cities across Canada and around the world. But our lives have still been impacted and our way of life has certainly changed.

As a community physician, my services during the pandemic have shifted to virtual options, including video visits, email and phone appointments. That being said, there are still some things you just can’t do over the phone, so I’m still seeing many of my patients in person. The interesting thing is this change is likely to last beyond the pandemic.

According to U.S. statistics, about 60 per cent of primary care visits don’t require an in person visit. It’s so much more convenient for patients if they can call or do a video consultation because they don’t have to take half a day off work to come in person. As we move beyond COVID-19, we’re going to have to adopt these digital tools for the future.

In addition to virtual consultation methods, I also use an e-prescribing tool called PrescribeIT, which further reduces the need for in-person physician visits and enables vulnerable populations to limit their time outside and reduces their risk of infection, which has been a critical tool during the pandemic.

And while these tools can be a significant asset when in-person visits with health-care professionals are not possible, or not recommended, they are also critical to helping keep patients safe year round, something I anticipate will be a trend we’ll see in health care coming out of the learnings surrounding COVID-19.

Beyond these digital tools being a critical resource over the past six weeks, the health-care system was in need of some updates anyway. You have to keep in mind that in the medical field, fax is still the main form of communication between pharmacies and physicians. Aside from being an antiquated method of transferring data, it leaves room for human error.

Being able to electronically prescribe medications gives me peace of mind knowing nothing can be altered from my prescription, which is especially important when prescribing narcotics. I can also see exactly when prescriptions have been filled, which can be helpful for preventing narcotics abuse.

E-prescribing is also helpful in terms of overall medication management. Duplicate prescriptions can be avoided with e-prescribing because when prescriptions are sent electronically, the system sends an electronic message that alerts the physician to any drugs that have been dispensed.

E-prescribing tools like PrescribeIT also offer the ability for prescribers and pharmacies to send secure clinical communication to each other through the integrated messaging tool. This permits pharmacists and prescribers to quickly align on an appropriate course of action and provide the best medication approach for their patients. Pharmacies can also request prescription renewals from a patient’s prescribing doctor electronically, without the patient having to schedule another appointment.

COVID-19 has changed the way so many businesses and industries are operating. But in the case of primary care, it may be for the better. I will continue offering virtual appointments and utilizing e-prescribing services in order to keep our community safe both during this terrible pandemic, and beyond.

Dr. Sherine Ibrahim is a Lethbridge physician at Legacy Medical Centre and Prairie Treatment Opioid Dependency Clinic, both part of Alberta’s Chinook Primary Care Network. She is an advocate for PrescribeIT by Canada Health Infoway, a not-for-profit organization.

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