Why Telehealth and Electronic Prescribing Must Go Together
If people didn’t know what telehealth was before COVID-19 lock downs, just about everyone knows what it is now. Because telehealth is essential in ensuring patients can access the healthcare services they need as safely as possible, the United States is working to strengthen telehealth services, especially in rural and underserved communities.
A recent brief issued by the U.S. Office of Health Policy stated that during the peak of COVID-19 (March to April 2020), telemedicine visits increased from almost 1% to as much as 80% in areas with high concentrations of COVID-19 cases.
The push to expand telehealth innovation and quality help us all.
Patients who need to stay home due to illness or health concerns, clinics and hospitals nationwide with staff shortages, and entrepreneurs who are starting telemedicine companies across healthcare verticals like primary care, pediatrics, weight loss, mental health, men’s/women’s health, addiction/ recovery, and dermatology, to name a few.
Integrating ePrescribing with telehealth is the logical next step for ensuring safe and efficient access to patient care. ePrescribing, like telehealth, has undergone testing, due diligence, and regulations for more than 15 years. The onset of the pandemic only solidified what those of us in healthcare technology have known for a long time—this is the future of enabling wider access to healthcare services in a digital age.
ePrescribing provides an option for supporting telehealth and enabling better access to medications.
Telemedicine is making a pathway, and, at the same time, ePrescribing is seeing user adoption skyrocket due to government regulations, Meaningful Use requirements, Electronic Prescriptions for Controlled Substances (EPCS), and other mandates.
According to a recent study by the American Hospital Association (AHA) Information Technology (IT) Supplement Survey, the proportion of non-federal acute care hospitals enabled for EPCS increased from 67% in 2018 to 96% in 2021.
This will have an enormous impact on telehealth and ePrescribing in the years to come. Just as consumers are used to convenience and ease in every aspect of life, from purchasing goods and services to interacting with healthcare professionals online and through portals, it is critical that the digital healthcare experience falls in line with other consumer behavior.
ePrescribing, like telemedicine, is helping to alleviate work for both the practitioner and the patient and ensures continuity of care during a health crisis.
Telemedicine and ePrescribing are scalable solutions for healthcare.
Both are essential to ensure digital health offerings are consistent, reliable, and manageable. Both initiatives enable practitioners to maintain their practice, provide care to patients, and ensure those that are most in need have access to medication refills and prescriptions regardless of their health status or physical or mental limitations. With the right integration of tools, a patient can see a practitioner; receive the care, advice, and prescriptions they need; and have those scripts sent securely to the pharmacy and delivered right to their door, creating a more efficient delivery of services.
ePrescribing supports the safer use of medications, including controlled substances, and streamlines communication without coordinating across physicians, pharmacies, and other patient care locations. According to a recent ONC blog, Using Health IT to Support Safer Use and Management of Controlled Substance Prescriptions— Health IT Buzz, “ePrescribing promotes patient safety by enabling health care providers to take advantage of features built into health IT products that can alert prescribers of potential drug interactions, inappropriate doses, allergies, and underlying patient conditions.” Just like telemedicine promotes remote disease management, ePrescribing promotes compliance, health, and safety by flagging drug interactions and drug checks across providers, plans, and pharmacies to reduce medication abuse and fraud.
Controlling costs and increasing access to healthcare services over the next few years requires a commitment from all stakeholders. The future of telehealth varies by state, and access may roll back as the pandemic-era emergency orders, which allowed physicians to see patients in multiple states, could begin lapsing. For the time being, additional extensions have been agreed upon, but these terms could be reevaluated with each law-making session in the new year.