Framework for Regulating Electronic Prescriptions Is EssentialBy Ricardo Moguel | Fri, 05/28/2021 - 09:02
The technological transformation in many health services was already underway before 2020. Nevertheless, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this transition gained momentum. Just look at the growing numbers of online consultations, which only a couple of years ago were not even in the minds of doctors or patients but today have overcome barriers, evidencing their great potential, not only because they help ease the burden in hospital centers but because they also bring healthcare closer to those who need it the most.
In fact, we expect digitalization in the health sector to keep growing. According to statistics from Doctoralia, there were more than 11,000 online consultations in Mexico just in March 2021. During the first quarter of 2021, an investment was made in digital health of over US$8.5 billion, according to Startup Health, breaking every investment record in digital health in a single quarter.
This is just one example of how technology has benefited us in times of crisis by putting health within reach. But in Mexico, one area where more work is needed is the issuance of electronic prescriptions, as it allows us to digitize the processes and continue supporting remote consultations with every tool that is essential for doctors and patients.
Since 2011, the possibility for doctors to issue electronic prescriptions has been addressed by the House of Representatives. In 2015, the Ministry of Health and the Federal Commission for Protection Against Health Risks (COFEPRIS) announced the use of electronic prescriptions. And in 2018, the General Health Law was amended to validate the digital signature of the physician issuing the prescription.
And although there has already been some progress in the matter, there are still gaps regarding the online prescription of drugs, particularly controlled substances. Nevertheless, when we speak of OTC medications, the handling of electronic prescriptions has countless advantages for doctors, patients and drugstores. Firstly, the digital seals and the electronic signatures are rendered unique, fake-proof and, therefore, help cut down on self-medication.
These prescriptions can be easily and quickly filled thanks to their interoperability. For example, you could get the medication from the pharmacy of your choice (provided it is registered with COFEPRIS). Besides, having the prescription available in your electronic device allows you to closely adhere to your treatment, just as the doctor prescribed (and in easy-to-read writing, to avoid confusion).
As for health professionals, the ability to issue electronic prescriptions helps cut back on administrative expenses and complements their expertise when providing consultations and care for patients in any location, even far from the health professional’s geographical area. Health professionals would also have access to a wide catalog of drugs and could check the approximate price, which would help in prescribing the best option for each patient.
Issuing electronic prescriptions has proven efficient in other countries in terms of safety and quality in medical care. In the EU, the electronic service for transboundary health assistance was established in 2019, with the purpose of guaranteeing continuity in medical care of European citizens as they move from one member country to another. For that reason, 22 countries of the UE have already incorporated the interoperable electronic prescription and the electronic medical history, allowing them to exchange health data safely.
On the other hand, a study published by The American Journal of Pharmacy Benefits reported that in the US, by clearly displaying names and dosages, electronic prescriptions have decreased mistakes in drug prescription and administration: 78 percent of the professionals polled considered that the electronic prescription is a good method to improve patient safety.
The legal framework to regulate digital healthcare in Mexico is still under construction, and the benefits of electronic prescriptions are clear, but greater endeavors focused on this subject are of the essence in 2021, in order to keep driving the digitization of health and promote its use for the benefit of society.