Writing prescriptions for patients is a complicated endeavor these days. While some orders for medication and devices may be conveyed to pharmacies by telephone, federal regulations stipulate that paper prescriptions be presented at pharmacies before others are dispensed. Stringent regulations issued recently by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) to combat the estimated $5 billion in annual prescription fraud committed throughout the U.S. also come into play; these regulations call for secure prescriptions that cannot be copied, altered or counterfeited.
Bob Norman, director of IT at Mankato Clinic, had such challenges in mind as he shopped the aisles of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Annual Conference & Exhibition three years ago. One of Minnesota's largest physician-owned, multi-specialty regional group practices, Mankato Clinic operates eight sites in and around Mankato; its staff includes 80 physicians.
At the time of Norman's visit to the HIMSS meeting, Mankato Clinic management had already decided to migrate from a manual (handwritten) prescription-issuance system to a printer-based one. "We thought it would be better all around in terms of compliance with all regulations, as well as to make the job a little easier for the doctors," Norman said. Management had also concluded that using dedicated prescription printers, rather than all-purpose laser jet printers fitted with prescription-generating software, would be their best bet because the latter are more expensive and print prescriptions on 8 ½" X 11" paper instead of standard prescription form.