10 Things You Need to Know About Electronic Prescriptions

Roni Shye
Roni Shye, PharmD BCGP BCACP, is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
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Electronic prescrptions—also known as e-scripts, e-faxes, or e-prescriptions—are sent directly from your doctor’s office to your pharmacy’s computer.

E-prescribing can be very convenient, for you, your doctor, and your pharmacist, eliminating the need for your doctor to contact the pharmacy directly, or for you to bring a handwritten prescription in with you.

Here are 10 things you may not know about e-prescribing—and why it’s generally a good thing.

Your doctor can now send an e-prescription for a controlled substance. This year, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) finally approved electronic prescribing for schedule II controlled substances (opioid medications like oxycodone, morphine, or Adderall). Before, these types of medications were excluded from electronic prescribing due to legal concerns.

Some states now require e-prescriptions. On March 13, 2015, a New York law was signed making e-prescribing mandatory. The law went into effect on March 27, 2016. If you live in New York, your doctor must send all prescriptions electronically. This isn’t optional in New York any more—failure to do so could result in fines, loss of license, or jail time.

Minnesota also requires that prescriptions be sent electronically—but unlike New York, they don’t have penalties in place for prescribers who don’t follow the rules.

Why would a state require e-prescriptions? To help reduce the overprescribing of addictive medications, and to prevent paper prescription fraud.

Veterinarians are excluded from the e-prescribing requirements. If you live in New York, your regular doctor may also be able to phone or fax in a prescription in some situations, including power outages.

Mistakes are still possible. Always be sure to check your prescription when you receive it. While your pharmacist doesn’t need to read your doctor’s writing on an e-prescription, there can be errors when your doctor enters it in their computer. About one in ten prescriptions will require a call from your pharmacy to your doctor for clarification.

E-prescribing saves time. Your prescription arrives at the pharmacy before you leave your appointment, and can sometimes be filled and waiting for you by the time you arrive to pick it up.

E-prescribing is more accurate. Pharmacists don’t have to decipher your doctor’s handwriting (or call to confirm if they aren’t able to make it out).

Having your prescriptions sent electronically is safer. Your pharmacy has a record, all in one place, of your prescriptions. This helps your pharmacist catch any errors, or medications that may interact.

You can still shop around with an e-prescription! Many people think that you’re stuck filling at the pharmacy you choose during your appointment, but there are several things you can do. First, check prices before you have the prescription sent over (the GoodRx mobile app is great for this). If your prescription has already been sent and you want to fill somewhere else, keep in mind that most pharmacies are happy to help you with a transfer.

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