NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

E-Links Between Doctors and Pharmacies

April 9, 2002

Commercial Internet-based systems are being put into place that will allow doctors to send prescriptions directly to a pharmacy's computer from a hand-held or desk top computer, wireless telephone or text pager.

Those involved in the project cite a number of benefits:

  • Pharmacies can send back information over a two-way network about potentially harmful drug interactions as well as a patient's insurance coverage.
  • The system could also prevent errors stemming in part from some doctors' notoriously illegible handwriting.
  • Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson sees the new system saving doctors' time and allow them to focus more on patient's health.
  • Some 200,000 of the nation's 600,000 doctors write most of their prescriptions.

Technology analysts report the new system is the latest foray in the hotly contested health care battleground where billions of dollars in drug sales are in play and the object is to influence doctors' decisions at the moment they order a drug for a patient through ads on the Internet ordering system.

Health insurance plans, pharmacy benefit management companies and drug manufacturers all reportedly hope to gain control of the drug-ordering process.

Source: Milt Freudenheim, "So Much for Doctor's Bad Handwriting on Drug Prescriptions," New York Times, April 9, 2002.


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