Hiqa publishes new standards on e-prescribing

Health agency says new measures an important step in State’s e-health strategy

Standards that will enable doctors to electronically prescribe medication to help reduce errors have been published by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa).

The health standards agency said the publication of the standards for so-called e-prescribing was an important step towards implementing an e-health strategy.

Hiqa's acting director of health information Rachel Flynn said e-prescribing had been identified as a key priority for the State in the National eHealth Strategy published in 2013. However, multiple standards are required to enable its introduction.

“Medication error is one of the most common adverse events in Irish healthcare and e-prescribing gives health providers an important tool to safely and efficiently manage patients’ medications,” Ms Flynn said.

“The two standards published today support the implementation of electronic prescribing. They provide a consistent approach to the identification and naming of medicines prescribed and dispensed, and a mechanism for safely exchanging clinical documents.

“These standards pave the way for improved health services by reducing medication prescription and transcription errors, leading to increased quality and efficiency, and safer services for patients.”

Patient safety

Ms Flynn said that while e-prescribing was the direct computer-to-computer transmission of prescription information from GPs to pharmacies, such systems also allowed for patient safety features, including clinical decision support and the sharing of patient pharmacy data across multiple prescribers.

An international review by Hiqa showed that the electronic transfer of prescriptions had been successfully implemented at a national level between primary care and community pharmacies in the six jurisdictions reviewed.

Enabling legislation for another key aspect of the e-health strategy - the roll-out of individual health identifiers for patients - was passed by the Oireachtas last July.