Exploring the Use and Impact of e-Prescribing on Pharmacy Practice

By Bobby Gheorghiu

Prescribing practices in Canada are changing, and according to a new survey, those switching to e-prescribing value the ability to reduce fraud and improve patient safety.

Exploring the Use and Impact of e-Prescribing on Pharmacy Practice

Infoway and the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) recently collaborated and commissioned the 2022 National Survey of Canadian Community Pharmacists: Use of e-Prescribing and Digital Tools in Practice through a third-party research firm, Environics Research.

The population of interest for the survey consisted of all CPhA members who are estimated at approximately 30,000 pharmacists, students and technicians across Canada.

The survey assessed community pharmacist and technician perspectives around the use and impact of electronic prescribing and digital health technologies on their practice. The survey sample consisted of 610 respondents and was weighted to reflect the provincial distribution of pharmacists across the country.  One of the biggest findings of the survey was in how prescriptions arrive at pharmacies.

In 2016, when this survey was last conducted, the majority of prescriptions (57 per cent) were paper-based and brought to the pharmacy by the patients (or their family/caregivers) compared to only 28 per cent in 2022. Currently, the majority of prescriptions arrived directly from the prescriber, either by fax (49 per cent), through electronic prescribing (eight per cent) or by telephone (seven per cent).

Handwritten prescriptions, historically a source of medication errors, dropped from 48 per cent of all prescriptions in 2016 to 28 per cent in 2022. Widespread use of electronic medical records and the rise of virtual care and electronic prescribing during the pandemic likely accelerated this shift. When it comes to pharmacy workflow, the biggest pain point for pharmacists and technicians is the time required to communicate with prescribers using fax or telephone. It is thus not surprising that respondents rated access to electronic health records and electronic two-way communication with prescribers as the most important digitally-enabled functionality to improve the quality of care they provide.

The use of electronic prescribing services has gone up eight-fold since 2016.  Among pharmacists currently not using e-prescribing services, 91 per cent want their pharmacy to be able to send or receive prescriptions electronically within the next five years. Among the early adopters of e-prescribing, the highest value is seen in confirming the authenticity of a prescription and improving patient safety by reducing transcription errors.  A summary of these findings can be found here. For detailed visualizations, customized views and access to the data tables, please visit our Infoway Insights website.

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About the author
Bobby Gheorghiu

Bobby Gheorghiu

Bobby Gheorghiu works with stakeholders in academia, private and public sectors to develop and monitor performance targets for initiatives such as PrescribeIT®, Canada’s national e-prescribing service, to ensure widespread adoption of technology and to demonstrate tangible benefits of investments in digital health. He holds an MHSc in Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation from the University of Toronto.