Background and objective: The objective of this study was to identify physicians' and pharmacists' perceptions of the challenges and benefits to implementing a nationwide electronic prescribing network linking medical clinics and community pharmacies in Quebec, Canada.
Methods: Forty-nine people (12 general practitioners, 2 managers, 33 community pharmacists, and 2 pharmacy staff members) from 40 points of care (10 primary care clinics (42% of all the connected sites) and 30 community pharmacies (44%)) were interviewed in 2013. Verbatim transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis.
Results: A low level of network use was observed. Most pharmacists processed e-prescriptions by manual entry instead of importing electronically. They reported concerns about potential errors generated by importing e-prescriptions, mainly due to the instruction field. Paper prescriptions were still perceived as the best means for safe and effective processing of prescriptions in pharmacies. Speed issues when validating e-prescription messages were seen as an irritant by physicians, and resulted in several of them abandoning transmission. Displaying the medications based on the dispensing data was identified as the main obstacle to meaningful use of medication histories.
Conclusions: Numerous challenges impeded realization of the benefits of this network. Standards for e-prescription messages, as well as rules for message validation, need to be improved to increase the potential benefits of e-prescriptions. Standard drug terminology including the concept of clinical medication should be developed, and the implementation of rules in local applications to allow for the classification and reconciliation of medication lists from dispensing data should be made a priority.
Keywords: community pharmacist; electronic prescription; general practitioner; medication data exchange network; medication histories; primary care.
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