New York Clears Way for Electronic Medication Transactions

New York next month will allow doctors to use e-mail to send prescriptions to pharmacies. The state also will allow pharmacists access to online medication profiles, as long as patients authorize the sharing of their records among pharmacies with a common database.

The new regulations require that all prescription and medical data be encrypted when sent over the World Wide Web to prevent unauthorized access to patient information, and any pharmacist that accesses an electronic database for any reason other than filling a prescription could lose their license and possibly be subject to prosecution

The state's Board of Regents made the decision to clear the way for online drug transactions as an effort to reduce the number of adverse drug reactions and prescription errors caused by unclear handwriting or phone orders. There also is confusion when patients use different pharmacies for different prescriptions and end up with unsafe drug interactions.

"With the dramatically increasing volume of prescriptions being dispensed today and the drugs themselves becoming more complex, we have found a way to increase the attention that pharmacists give to patients directly," Regents Chancellor Carl Hayden said.

More than 165 million prescriptions are filled each year in New York, but authorities expect that number to grow to 220 million by 2003. Some 30 states allow prescriptions to be e-mailed to doctors.

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