Why E-Prescription is an Important Step Towards E-Health

Italian Regions are racing towards the goal of de-materialization of prescriptions of medicines. While the national average percentage of electronic prescriptions has not yet reached 50%, certain Regions are recording percentages above 80% (Veneto, Sicily, Campania, and Aosta Valley), according to the latest data published by Il Sole 24 Ore Sanità on the September 8-14 issue. The goal of 90% of de-materialized prescriptions, which has been postponed to 2016 by Law no. 11 of 2015, is getting closer. E-prescriptions will also have an interesting feature that may prove helpful for certain patients: the validity of e-prescriptions would no longer be limited to a single Region, but would spread to the national level.

What are the advantages of e-prescribing and why is it considered a crucial step towards E-Health? Saving on the cost of paper, as cited by certain commentators, is definitely not the point. E-Health requires costly investments in the field of Information Technology, which will not be easily set-off by money saved on paper!

E-prescriptions actually promise much more substantial benefits:

  • Increase of patients’ safety and error reduction: an electronic system can lead to less mistakes due, for example, to the selection of incorrect or unavailable drug dosages, the duplication of therapies or the misinterpretation of the content of the prescription, the avoidance of mistakes linked to the omission of certain information (e.g., allergies).
  • Better monitoring of appropriateness and control of the cost of therapies: e-prescriptions can be a formidable tool to gather data and keep track of health costs in real time, which may lead to a more efficient control on expenditures at every level. As an example, think about what an automatic alert suggesting more cost effective therapies or an optimization of the current therapy may do for a single patient and for the health system in general.

Let’s keep on counting electronic prescriptions (21 million out of 48 million last June!): they will not be the panacea for the national health system, but they can be a great step forward.

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