Electronic prescribing

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Editor, – I refer to Frank Quinlan's editorial 'Electronic prescribing in general practice: one small step' (Aust Prescr 2000;23:50-1). More and more general practitioners are computerising their practices. With the expanding repertoire come errors in writing computer scripts. These include writing the wrong drugs, the wrong dose and strength, and errors in dose instructions and patient names.

Writing the wrong drugs can occur when a general practitioner enters the first three letters of a drug name and the software anticipates the choice without the doctor having to type the entire name. A whole list of drugs is then generated, potentially causing errors. This can be obviated by typing more than the first three or four letters to refine the selection of the drug name.

Incorrect dose strength is generated if a drug has more than one strength in the Drug Selection Screen. Using the arrow keys on the keyboard to highlight the required strength is likely to reduce such mistakes.
It is helpful to make a list of your commonly prescribed medications and save them as favourites. All subsequent prescriptions of these drugs will then have the correct dose, frequency and instructions at the click of a mouse.

An incorrect patient name on a script can be minimised by making sure that the correct new patient's name appears on the screen after the previous patient has left.

Obviously the surest way of avoiding prescribing errors is to check the script after it has been printed to make sure it is for the right patient, the right drug, the right strength and with instructions clearly marked.

Farooq Qureshi
General Practitioner
Glenelg East, SA

Editor, – Dr Nolan's article on advertising in electronic prescribing (Aust Prescr 2000;23:52-3) suggests Australians have yielded to the natural and fashionable idea that drug ads might be to some degree acceptable. The bulk of evidence is leaning the other way. The monitoring network we have in France has consistently shown for 10 years that industry-based information is misleading and biased. I refer your readers to the recent eLetter launched by Public Citizen in Worst Pills Best Pills (Worst Pills, Best Pills) about the impact of ads on the prescribing habits of psychiatrists. They can also refer to the Medical Lobby for Appropriate Marketing. Do you really expect advertising is going to be any different in an electronic format?

C. Kopp
La Revue Prescrire