People who don’t work in pharmacies are surprised to learn that even with electronic prescribing, pharmacy staff still manually enter much of a prescription’s contents, including the instructions, called “sigs,” into our pharmacy management systems.
This time-consuming task is more than inefficient; it’s an opportunity to introduce keyboard errors that could harm patients. Yet it’s necessary for 84% of all prescriptions, according to a recent study. That’s because electronic health record systems don’t speak the same language as pharmacy systems or patients, which means the sigs arrive as blocks of text instead of in discrete fields that populate our software and use terms that are hard for patients to understand.
The new software, which integrated easily into our existing SpeedScript pharmacy management system, helped immediately. For example, our hospital typically writes sigs in strength sizes, such as “take 40 mg,” which is confusing for patients. This program automatically converts the sigs to simpler language, such as “take one tablet,” which is easier for patients to understand, increases efficiency and significantly reduces opportunities for keyboard errors.
This was followed by a program that integrates patient allergy information from an electronic prescription right into our dispensing system and flags potentially dangerous contraindications. We can then contact the prescriber before the patient arrives and decide the best course of action.
The vendor was great to work with, and we’re proud that we provided feedback to help refine such valuable tools. We’re working more efficiently than ever and have more time for customer service and patient care.
In most instances, I’d be wary of saying what works in Glasgow will work anywhere, but in this case, I’m going to make an exception. My message for other independent pharmacies is to embrace innovative and practical AI technology. Tools like these help you make the most of your limited resources and deliver better service to your patients. So, whether your pharmacy is in a small town or a big city, it can have an outsized impact on health and well-being in your community.