Law & Governance
[This article was originally published in Electronic Healthcare, Volume 6, Number 2.]
Newer outpatient electronic prescribing software programs produce typewritten paper prescriptions with electronically created signatures. Current Canadian federal legislation forbids static (unchanging) signature images on prescriptions.
We conducted a randomized trial of electronic prescribing in outpatients at a university-affiliated hospital. The application was a wireless Palm-based system that creates a prescription that is either printed and given to the patient or faxed to a pharmacy. Using the software, the physician creates a unique signature image for each prescription.
We successfully overcame challenges related to wireless network reliability, local printer availability and physician training. However, to comply with federal legislation and provincial regulations, we were required to design workarounds to create acceptable prescribing processes.
Our experience suggests that the legality of the electronic signature must be clearly defined to realize the full potential of standalone outpatient electronic prescribing systems and fully integrated hospital-wide electronic medical records.
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