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ePrescribing FAQs

NEW! FAQs on legal issues associated with ePrescribing

The ePrescribing programme is occasionally asked questions about some of the legal issues associated with the implementation of ePrescribing. The programme has consulted with legal experts and also talked to some of the trusts which have implemented ePrescribing to date and therefore had to tackle these issues already. FAQs covering these issues are provided here (PDF, 48Kb).

What is the ePrescribing programme doing now?

The programme's aim is to facilitate the development and implementation of ePrescribing. Consequently, since the publication of the ePrescribing functional specification in 2006, it has been supporting the work of the local programmes for IT and the local service providers as they progress the development of the ePrescribing functionality. ePrescribing will be delivered in a phased way, as the software is rolled out to trusts and as new releases of the software are implemented.

Where appropriate the programme has been engaging and consulting with its stakeholders and developing new advice, guidelines and standards.

It has also been working closely with other teams within NHS Connecting for Health on areas which will impact on ePrescribing, such as the Common User Interface, the Dictionary of Medicines & Devices and the clinical safety process.

How do you define ePrescribing?

We define ePrescribing as "the utilisation of electronic systems to facilitate and enhance the communication of a prescription, aiding the choice, administration or supply of a medicine through decision support and providing a robust audit trail for the entire medicines use process".

Who will the programme affect?

The programme will potentially affect all healthcare professionals who have an involvement in the prescribing, supply and/or administration of medicines and related therapies. The ePrescribing programme is focusing on acute and mental health trusts initially.

What kind of functionality will ePrescribing deliver?

With the help of healthcare professionals we have developed a functional system specification for ePrescribing (PDF, 497Kb) systems. This specification is helping to guide the work of the local service providers. In future it is expected that ePrescribing systems will broadly provide for:

  • Computerised entry and management of prescriptions.
  • Knowledge support, with immediate access to medicines information, e.g. BNF.
  • Decision support, aiding the choice of medicines and other therapies, with alerts such as drug interactions.
  • Support during administration.
  • Computerised links between hospital wards/departments and pharmacies.
  • Ultimately, links to other elements of patients' individual care records.
  • Improvements in existing work processes.
  • A robust audit trail for the entire medicines use process.

How will you ensure ePrescribing systems remain up-to-date?

Prescribing and administration practice is constantly evolving as a result of legislation, changing NHS priorities and other factors. We will update the ePrescribing functional specification when requirements change, involving healthcare professionals and our other stakeholders as appropriate.

Isn't ePrescribing just about physicians ordering medicines via computer?

ePrescribing is also sometimes referred to as 'computerised physician order entry' or CPOE. However, this is only one part of the overall medicines use process – no less important is support for the administration of medicines, which is also a key part of the programme’s work.

ePrescribing could have a major impact on clinical practice, so how will the programme support the implementation of ePrescribing?

There is much literature that identifies the benefits that ePrescribing can have on clinical practice. Equally, there are also papers that highlight where problems have been encountered.

Consequently, the programme commissioned a major piece of research to identify the lessons learned from ePrescribing implementations which have already taken place in the UK and also to highlight issues identified in the international literature.

This research has led to the development of a set of information resources designed to support the introduction  of ePrescribing at trust level, including a detailed report, briefings aimed at particular professional groups and a presentation.

The resources are aimed at major decision makers within trusts but also colleagues - including frontline clinicians - who may be involved in implementing, supporting and/or using ePrescribing systems.

How is ePrescribing being delivered by NHS Connecting for Health?

The national ePrescribing programme within NHS Connecting for Health is playing a coordinating and supporting role, providing advice and guidance on key areas such as requirements, standards, safety, clinical content and implementation. The programme is working closely with the local programmes for IT and local service providers, who are leading on the development and implementation of the ePrescribing functionality.

How are you engaging with your stakeholders?

We are engaging in a variety of ways. During the summer of 2006, for instance, we held a major series of clinical engagement workshops, involving almost 500 healthcare professionals and representatives from a range of professional bodies. We then  sought comment from our stakeholders on a draft ePrescribing functional specification, gaining feedback from more than a hundred organisations and individuals.

Since this time we have held a number of other workshops on specific issues associated with ePrescribing, such as reporting, hazard frameworks and dose range checking, and have been presenting at appropriate events.

How can you possibly ensure ePrescribing meets the needs of all clinical specialties?

We have been engaging with healthcare professionals from a wide range of clinical specialties, including doctors, nurses, pharmacists and allied health professionals. We are also talking to professional bodies such as the Royal Colleges, the BMA and associations and societies focused on particular clinical specialties.

Can a 'one size fits all' approach possibly work?

We are not going for a 'one size fits all' approach. It's clear from the feedback at our clinical engagement workshops that to be successful, ePrescribing systems will need to be flexible. For instance, they need to allow for a certain level of local adaptation to respond to factors such as local formularies, protocols, trust priorities, and so on.

What about the training requirements for ePrescribing? How will these be managed?

ePrescribing will impact on a wide range of staff and we recognise the importance of effective training. The programme will work with both the local programmes for IT and healthcare professionals themselves to ensure that appropriate plans are put in place.