Objective: To examine advantages of and obstacles to electronic prescribing in the ambulatory care environment.
Data sources: MEDLINE and International Pharmaceutical Abstract searches were conducted for the period from January 1980 to September 2000. Key words were electronic prescribing, computerized physician order entry, prior authorization, drug utilization review, and consumer satisfaction. In September 2000, a public search engine (www.google.com) was used to find additional technical information. In addition, pertinent articles were cross-referenced to identify other resources.
Data extraction: Articles, symposia proceedings, and organizational position statements published in the United States on electronic prescribing and automation in healthcare are cited.
Data synthesis: Electronic prescribing can eliminate the time gap between point of care and point of service, reduce medication errors, improve quality of care, and increase patient satisfaction. Considerable funding requirements, segmentation of healthcare markets, lack of technology standardization, providers' resistance to change, and regulatory indecisiveness create boundaries to the widespread use of automated prescribing. The potential solutions include establishing a standardizing warehouse or a router and gaining stakeholder support in implementation of the technology.
Conclusions: Electronic prescribing can provide immense benefits to healthcare providers, patients, and managed care. Resolution of several obstacles that limit feasibility of this technology will determine its future.