New York doctors prescribe meds electronically

Doctors in New York are ditching their prescription pads in favor of digital prescriptions.

Dr. Daniel Baker is Lenox Hill Hospital's vice chairman of emergency medicine. He demonstrates his hospital's two-week-old digital prescription-writing system on a nameless, faceless test patient.

"It's a new a process so now we have to get a new piece of information from each patient, which is preferred pharmacy," Baker said.

Once the patient chooses their pharmacy, the physician enters the prescription into the system and sends it to the pharmacy electronically.

"My handwriting is not particularly tremendous," Baker said.

The system frees pharmacies from having to decode a doctor's scribbles. And at the end of the month, when New York becomes the first state to impose penalties on prescribers for not writing prescriptions digitally, the software might also reduce opioid abuse state-wide.

New York's Health Department reported 27 million opioid prescriptions written for its 20 million residents in 2013.

Lenox Hill's system -- soon-to-be installed by every doctor in the state -- makes it easier for prescribers to view past prescriptions, even those written by other doctors, before writing a new one for their patient. The system slows down when patients don't have a preferred pharmacy, or want to change their pharmacy, or the pharmacy doesn't carry their drug.

"That actually becomes a little bit more labor intensive on both because the prescription can't just be sent to another pharmacy," Baker said.

Patients must then call back their doctor and have them re-prescribe what they need from a different pharmacy.

For those not granted extensions, the system becomes mandatory march 27.

"We have a good amount of time to kind of work out the kinks, see what is defaulting to print even though it should actually be going to e-prescribe, be able to see are there individual providers that just aren't capable of doing it due to some kind of electronic hiccup in the system," Baker said.