Electronic drug prescriptions can be delivered to pharmacists in all 50 states for the first time, as Alaska became the final state to join the technological bandwagon last week.
In the past year, Georgia, South Carolina and West Virginia have all joined the national network, and the change in Alaska regulations means doctors' hieroglyphic handwriting and prescription pads could soon be a thing of the past.
Dick Holm, a member of the state Board of Pharmacy, said the process took so long to get to Alaska because "We're a small state and we address things as they come up." He said the change was not mandated by the federal government.
After receiving several requests from doctors and businesses, he said the board investigated joining the network. Board members decided to do so, he said, because they didn't see drawbacks and thought doctors who wished to could continue to write by hand.
Using electronic prescriptions has several notable perks, Holm said.
It can reduce the risk of pharmacists incorrectly filling prescriptions because they can't understand doctors' handwriting. It promises to reduce paperwork and help thwart forgeriesthe electronic delivery ensures it is delivered directly to the pharmacy from the doctor.
According to Drug Enforcement Agency regulations, prescriptions for some controlled substances, such as OxyContin, cannot be transmitted electronically; a printed prescription is still required.