Why e-Prescribing is a Fundamental Component of Virtual Care

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed Canadians’ daily lives. Whether they’re staying masked or staying home, Canadians are making choices to protect their health and the health of their communities.

female clinician typing on laptop in office

This is particularly true in primary care, where increasing numbers of Canadians are choosing to access health care through a “virtual first” approach, where appropriate, rather than through in-person visits. In 2020, virtual visits have seen significant growth: virtual care visits went from 10-20 per cent of primary care visits in 2019, to 60 per cent of primary care visits in March and April 2020. According to our recent national consultation, nearly seven in ten Canadians who sought medical assistance during the pandemic used virtual care, and not surprisingly, 80 per cent of Canadians now believe investing in health care technology should be a top government priority. More than half (53 per cent) of Canadians who have used health technology in the past year say it helped them avoid an in-person visit to a provider or an emergency room.

Electronic prescribing (or e-prescribing) is a key enabler for effective virtual care. PrescribeIT®, a national e-prescribing service, has helped support health care delivery through the pandemic by enabling prescribers to work remotely, reducing physical contact with patients and paper prescriptions.

e-Prescribing can allow doctors and nurse practitioners to send prescriptions electronically straight to patients’ pharmacy of choice during virtual visits. These prescriptions are then received by pharmacies directly into their pharmacy management system, where pharmacists can further request prescription renewals from the patient’s prescribing doctor electronically. In a recent analysis, prescription renewals were cited as the one of the most common uses of virtual care during the pandemic.

In addition, e-prescribing can enable prescribers and pharmacists to send secure communications to each other through integrated messaging. This means that pharmacists and prescribers can quickly align on an appropriate course of action and provide the best medication approach for their patients.

Here are some other insights from the COVID-19 experience so far:

  • Virtual care is resonating with patients: 76 per cent are willing to use it after the pandemic ends, so it will be essential to ensure that a reliable, secure e-prescribing system underlies this “virtual first” approach to health care
  • Prescribers and pharmacists need a modern, efficient digital alternative to faxes and telephones for secure transmission of prescription
  • When providing virtual care, physicians and nurse practitioners want an e-prescribing solution integrated with their electronic medical record (EMR), with the capacity for e-renewals.

Electronic prescribing can be a useful tool when prescribing medications virtually, during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. As the trajectory towards virtual continues, it has never been clearer that e-prescribing needs to be a key component of virtual health care delivery.

If you are considering signing up for PrescribeIT®, or if you would simply like to learn more about the service, please visit www.prescribeit.ca.

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