Many doctors have been suspicious of computers and easily deterred from using them in their practices. I viewed with some trepidation what I thought would be a long and painful learning experience in moving to electronic prescribing.

Like most converts, I am now a zealot. The learning period was surprisingly short and now the painful part of the experience is limited to having occasionally to write a paper prescription. How did I ever manage before! The time and frustration saved is sizeable. The program inserts names, addresses and PBS quantities and a repeat prescription is but two keystrokes. For Authority scripts, all the patient information is automatically displayed and inserted, the Authority phone number is given, the words needed to be read appear on the screen and the cursor is in the box ready for the phone approval number.

Perhaps above all, the impression of being in control is the most important. I now have a comprehensive list of all medications that the patient has had and when they have been prescribed, all without having to wade through reams of handwritten notes. As well as dosage information, I have instant answers to all those difficult patient questions, such as, 'Should I take it with or without food, doctor?'. The system knows more reliably than my memory what drugs the patient is taking, so it flags interactions and allergies that I might well miss. The invaluable electronic Therapeutic Guidelines are but a mouse click away.

So, if you haven't already done so, don't just sit there, jump in!

John Marley

Professor, Department of General Practice, University of Adelaide, Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide