Help Patients, Medical Facilities Understand New System’s Benefits

In the new service, doctors register information on the drugs they are prescribing to patients in a dedicated system, and pharmacists dispense the drugs based on this information.

Patients can receive their medications by presenting their health insurance card or My Number identification card at a pharmacy, thus reducing their waiting time.

Each patient’s prescription history can be managed centrally, allowing multiple medical institutions and pharmacies to share information. The system also allows patients to view their prescription records online, likely making it easier for them to manage their medications.

Currently, Okusuri Techo prescription record books are used to manage patients’ respective prescription histories. However, some people forget to bring their book with them to the pharmacy, and it is easy for some records to be accidentally omitted.

If a doctor is unaware of prescriptions from other medical institutions and orders a medicine that is not supposed to be taken with medicine that the patient has already been prescribed, it could cause health problems for the patient. The elderly, in particular, are often prescribed a large number of medications from different medical institutions, and there have been cases in which people have become ill from taking too many drugs.

Using electronic prescriptions should help reduce such adverse effects, by providing a comprehensive picture of the medicines being taken. 

It is also expected to reduce unnecessary medical costs. It is not uncommon for different medical institutions to prescribe the same drug to a patient. The use of electronic prescriptions will reduce duplicates and assuredly lead to the more efficient supply of medicines.

A challenge to be addressed is the system’s low adoption rate. Less than 1% of all medical institutions and pharmacies accommodate electronic prescriptions, and fewer than 20% of existing facilities are said to be willing to introduce the system.

Many medical institutions are reluctant because the need for the system is not fully understood. High costs for system installation, combined with a shortage of system engineers, are preventing it from being adopted as widely as expected.

If only a few medical institutions can use the system, it will remain difficult for patients to understand the benefits of electronic prescriptions. The government should encourage medical facilities and pharmacies to adopt the system and strive to make it more widely used. 

However, ensuring the safety of information management is a major prerequisite for the system’s widespread use. If information on electronic prescriptions is leaked, and someone’s personal medical history or other data can be identified from the drugs prescribed, the reliability of the system will be shaken. 

It is hoped that the system functions in a way that allows both patients and medical professionals to use it without anxiety, while experiencing its convenience and effectiveness.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 27, 2023)