Providing Safe, Efficient Care Requires a Fast and Effective Communications Tool

By Tarek Hussein

Patients, particularly those with complex issues, rarely see one health care professional. Instead, they may visit primary care physicians, specialists or emergency departments, any of whom may recommend diagnostic tests or prescriptions. For safe, efficient care, the extended care team must be able to communicate quickly and easily.

Providing Safe, Efficient Care Requires a Fast and Effective Communications Tool

And for pharmacists like myself, this is becoming even more important as our scope of practice expands. In January 2023, pharmacists in Ontario will be able to assess and prescribe for minor ailments.

As pharmacists, we have the knowledge and expertise to play a more significant role in patient care, a role our profession has always stepped into when needed, as with the administration of vaccines and flu shots. In Alberta, Quebec and Nova Scotia, the scope of practice for pharmacists already allows for more management and prescriptive authority. Pharmacists in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick also have greater authority in prescribing and adapting medications.

Given the more significant role pharmacists play, it’s more vital than ever that we be able to communicate with our fellow clinicians quickly and efficiently. And those communications are readily available for future reference when looking back at a patient’s history.

Yet, health care is one of the few industries in which the fax machine is still deeply entrenched. Health care professionals send requisitions for tests, patient visit summaries and prescriptions via an antiquated technology. And when a pharmacist has a question about a prescription? They often fax it to the physician and wait — sometimes for hours — for a response.

The introduction of e-faxes has not improved the situation. They are still faxes. Prescriptions sent as e-faxes still arrive at the pharmacy as an image, which must then be typed into our pharmacy management system (PMS).

Faxes risk getting lost, which can cause delays and frustration. They can also be subject to fraud. Those faxed communications between prescribers and pharmacists about a patient’s prescription can be easily missed from the patient’s record.

This is why I was eager to adopt e-prescribing and became an early adopter of Canada Health Infoway’s e-prescribing tool, PrescribeIT®, a national e-prescribing service that enables the digital transmission of prescriptions. When a new prescription arrives via PrescribeIT®, we no longer have to transcribe it into our system — it automatically populates into a patient’s record.

For a pharmacist to dispense any medication, the script must be completed to a specific standard, with numerous patient and prescriber details. If any of these details are missing, we legally cannot fill the prescription. Unfortunately, even a tiny error requires us to request a correction and clarification, which can be particularly challenging if the prescription comes from an emergency department physician or urgent care clinic. With e-prescribing, the necessary details auto-populate so that the script is always completed to the required standard. Likewise, when I receive it on my end, it will auto-populate the areas I need to complete to dispense the prescription.

This means it takes me less time to fill prescriptions, which benefits both my pharmacy and my patients.

And when clarification is needed for a prescription, I no longer rely on missed phone calls and delayed faxes. Instead, I use the clinical communication tool in PrescribeIT®. It’s quick and easy, and best of all, the communication is associated with a patient’s record in the prescriber’s electronic medical record (EMR) and the pharmacy’s PMS.

As secondary care providers like pharmacists become even more involved in patient care, the secure messaging functionality and integration into the EMRs help to ensure efficient and reliable communication within the patient’s circle of care so that all members of the patient’s care team are updated on any changes to the patient’s care plan.

Because I’m so enthusiastic about e-prescribing through PrescribeIT®, I’ve joined their Ask a Peer program. If you have a question about e-prescribing, please send it to one of my peers or me.

Have a comment about this post? We’d love to hear from you.

About the author
Tarek Hussein

Tarek Hussein

Tarek Hussein is a primary care, community, clinical and compounding pharmacist and the co-founder of Weller Pharmacy in Kingston, Ontario. He provides comprehensive pharmacy services, including specialty compounding, medication therapy and disease state management, immunization, point-of-care and pharmacogenetic testing, deprescribing, and prescribing for smoking cessation and minor ailments. He is passionate about digital health, social prescribing, and patient safety.