I can’t work without it anymore,” says Dr Page, a GP in Centurion, Gauteng, who has been using e-scripting software for about 10 years. “I battle these days to actually write a script!” His sentiments are echoed by Dr Oosthuysen, a dentist in Constantia Park.

More than just an electronic script template, e-scripting software stores the patient’s history, allowing the doctor to quickly and easily refer to previous prescriptions, basic clinical notes and treatment decisions.

“It saves me time, my scripts look far more professional and the pharmacists appreciate it.” For Dr Van Tonder, a GP in the same practice as Dr Oosthuysen, patients’ reactions are a small, yet significant, benefit of e-scripting. “They complement me on the scripts,” he says. “I guess it signifies to them the practice’s all-round professionalism and focus on keeping up with the times.”

The three healthcare professionals further agree on the many practical benefits, such as stored scripts, sick note records that come in handy when employers need verification, and the ease with which chronic medication records are updated.

The Medicross practice of Drs Van Tonder and Oosthuysen functions according to ISO standards. For them the fact that the e-scripting system stores copies of previous scripts means effortless compliance with the ISO recordkeeping standards. The benefits of e-scripting are not only a reality for doctors. Patients sometimes receive a call from pharmacists informing them that scripts have missing information. This often leads to delays in patients receiving their medication. Using e-scripts, the system prompts doctors to give all the details.

“It is not merely a matter of convenience,” says Hannes Robberts, head of Health-Soft, one of South Africa’s leading providers of e-scripting software and part of the Med-e-Mass group. “I remember from my days as a pharmacist how challenging it can be to decipher not only a doctor’s handwriting, but also his or her intention with a script. Many times, the pharmacists on duty came to a consensus decision on what the doctor wanted when they were unsure what was prescribed and couldn’t reach the doctor to confirm.”

HOW IT WORKS

Scripts are generated on a software platform that takes care of much of the admin associated with issuing a prescription. It is, for example, set up to include all the information a script has to have to be legal, and automatically fills in the correct ICD-10 code for medical aid claims (if the doctor and patient agree to its inclusion). Importantly, the document’s format ensures clear instructions and no confusion regarding drugs and dosages.

An electronic data exchange interface transfers the script directly from the doctor’s PMA to the pharmacy, leaving no chance for drug seekers to alter it or for the careless to lose it. No more faxing is needed. Should the patient’s preferred pharmacy not be electronically linked to the practice, the doctor simply prints a copy of the script for the patient.

THE VALUE E-SCRIPTING ADDS

More than just an electronic script template, e-scripting software stores the patient’s history, allowing the doctor to quickly and easily refer to previous prescriptions, basic clinical notes and treatment decisions. This functionality is particularly handy in the case of chronic conditions. Instead of having to write out a new script every time, the doctor can simply refer to the patient’s treatment plan by calling up the previous script, verify that everything is still valid, change what is needed, and render it again.

Similarly, doctors can save their preferred treatment protocols for specific conditions. The software also speeds up the issuing of sick notes, referral and personalised letters, and references for the Workman’s Compensation Association (WCA) and Road Accident Fund (RAF), freeing up more time for patient interactions. In group practices e-scripting is extremely valuable as it allows the different partners to see each other’s prescription history for a specific patient. A patient can still receive the best care even when his or her preferred GP is not available.

E-scripting furthermore allows a practice to do away with paper and files in favour of an online system, and to be more efficient – resulting in a more professional image in the eyes of its patients. “E-scripting is far more than a printout of a computer-generated document,” says Robberts. “The intelligence behind it creates enormous value in terms of time saving, accuracy and improved patient care. It really is technology aimed at people.”