New medical technologies and software programs have drastically altered nearly every aspect of the healthcare industry. From doctor's visits conducted over video calls to electronic prescriptions that are sent directly to the pharmacy, streamlining medical processes have increased convenience and are helping to keep patients and providers safer than ever before. 

The added convenience of e-prescriptions
Electronic prescriptions are growing in popularity across the industry. The use of these services grew from 7 percent in 2008 to 70 percent just six years later, according to Healthcare IT News. Part of the growth came from changes in state e-prescribing policy. The American Pharmacists Association reported that there were restrictions to what kind of medications could be refilled with electronic prescriptions that were slowly being overturned in the past few years. Vermont became the last state to allow e-prescriptions for controlled substances in September 2015. 

One of the biggest draws to these programs is the convenience that they offer, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Doctors no longer need to coordinate with patients to come in and pick up new prescriptions or receive refills. Patients can log on to secure online networks to request their medicines and doctors can send protected prescriptions directly to the pharmacy. It significantly cuts down on time and allows providers to organize their tasks better. Rather than be interrupted several times a day with phone calls and patient visits, many of those inquiries can be handled together when the clinician logs into their online service portal and can go through prescription requests all at once. 

It also offers better convenience for patients. Those who have mobility issues or lack consistent transportation may end up going without needed medications because they can't commit to the traveling it takes to get their prescriptions filled. With e-prescribing, patients only need to make one stop. Doctors can send the prescription directly to a pharmacy of the patient's choosing, eliminating the need to travel to the office to pick up paper copies.

Providers can send prescriptions directly to a patient's pharmacy. Providers can send prescriptions directly to a patient's pharmacy.

How e-prescribing reduces fraud
While the practicality of e-prescribing is certainly important, the safety features the practice adds are an important draw for many providers who use it. Three states now require clinicians to use only e-prescribing as a means of curbing prescription drug abuse and medical fraud. 

According to USA Today, Maine, New York and Minnesota all require e-prescriptions. In New York, doctors can even face fines or jail time for using paper prescriptions with their patients. The goal is to cut down on counterfeit prescriptions that can be written if a patient steals a doctor's pad and forges his or her signature. As the number of people in the U.S. who suffer from an opioid addiction or have a history of prescription abuse climbs, medical teams are eager to find ways to reduce access to these powerful drugs.

Pain medications are essential for many people who follow doctors' orders and take them responsibly. Tightening the reigns on how prescriptions can be filled allows the patients who need these medicines to have access to them while still limiting their availability to the people who are trying to get them illegally. 

Sending an e-prescription requires a provider to log on to a secure account on a software program. The information is tracked so any fraudulent prescriptions can be easily traced, or even stopped before they're filled. It also keeps a detailed record of where and how often these medications are filled so doctors can detect patterns that may signal a problem with the way a patient is obtaining or refilling their prescriptions.

"Prescribing software could greatly improve workflow in the office."

Adapting e-prescribing software
Medical teams located in a state where electronic prescriptions are mandatory should already be on these systems. If they aren't, it's important to adapt an e-prescription program as soon as possible to avoid legal actions.

Providers in other states should prepare for the possibility of such laws coming to their areas as well. They would benefit from adapting these programs early so they don't end up blindsided and behind the curve if they become part of state regulations. 

Even without mandatory e-prescribing, the program has many benefits that healthcare providers need to consider. Investing in quality EHR and electronic prescribing software could greatly improve workflow in the office and help medical teams better care for their patients. 

Equipment and healthcare industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, a nationwide provider of commercial lending solutions for small and mid-size businesses. Marlin's equipment financing and loan products are offered directly to businesses, and through third party vendor programs, which include manufacturers, distributors, independent dealers and brokers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.