What a drag it is getting old…


The older I get, the crankier I seem to be.   It used to bother me, but… I’m over it now.  So let’s just move along to today’s commentary.  And the topic for today is… Pharmacists!

We all love pharmacists.   They are highly trained professionals who are a key part of our health care system.   It is often very helpful to have someone take a second look at prescribed medication dosages, review potential drug interactions, and advise patients of possible side effects.   They function in many ways like the Canadian Senate, giving things a sober second thought, but without the perks, arrogance, and scandals.

They have recently expanded their scope of practice to include giving immunizations and advising patients of what over-the-counter medications they can take for a number of common ailments.  All of this is mutually helpful.  It takes some of the burden of care away from the traditional primary health care providers, and generates some additional revenue for the pharmacies.

So, you may be wondering, where’s the beef?

Glad you asked.   You may have guessed that this might, in some way, tie in to EMRs.   It does.   

When I started using my EMR three years ago, I was very excited to learn that I would now be able to fax my computer generated, electronically signed prescriptions directly to the patient’s pharmacy.   What a boon to patient care, I thought.   The pharmacists are going to LOVE this.  Legible prescriptions, faxed to the order desk before the patient has even left the doctor’s office.   Amazing!

That’s when I learned the awful truth.   Pharmacists in New Brunswick are not willing to accept a prescription which is computer generated.    They will take an illegible handwritten scrawl on a napkin.   They will take a computer printout that has been hand-signed, digitized by a fax machine, fed through the ether, and reconstituted  at the other end.  But apparently, a fax-by-computer, clearly noting the phone number of origin and plastered with anti-forgery watermarks does not cut the mustard.  

Well my pill-dispensing friends, the time has come to join the new millennium.   There is no reason, I repeat, NO reason not to accept a computer-generated prescription.   Many other jurisdictions do it.  It is more secure than what you get now.  Plus you are already accepting computerized signatures from other sources.  For instance, when was the last time you refused to accept a cheque issued by the federal or provincial government?   Despite the fact that they are signed by machine, they still can be converted into useful cash.  

In the ongoing process of improving the quality and efficiency of health care delivery to the citizens of this province, doctors and pharmacists are key players.   The old ways of doing things are changing, mostly for the better.   In the spirit of the times, would it be too much to ask that pharmacists take this small step to embrace the benefits conferred by the new technology?


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