New system to allow prescriptions via SMS and e-mail

People who need a prescription might soon be spared the nuisance of waiting at the doctors’ for hours. The State Institute for Drug Control has launched a new service, known as e-prescription, that will enable Czech doctors to issue prescriptions via mobile phone text message or email. This method is now being tested, and if everything goes according to plan, it should come into operation by the end of March.

The e-prescription system is part of a new law on medicines that came into force at the end of 2007 and the State Institute for Drug Control has been entrusted by the Ministry of Health to put the new system into operation. How exactly is it going to work? Petra Keřková from the Institute for Drug Control outlines the technical details:

“Nowadays, when you go to the doctor, you receive a paper prescription. E-prescriptions will allow the doctors to send the prescription to an electronic database that will assign it with a special code. Doctors can either print it out or send it to the patient via an SMS or e-mail. The pharmacist will then check the patient’s identification code in the central database and issue the medication.”

The system of electronic prescriptions is designed mainly for long-term prescriptions, such as drugs for allergies or contraception. But doctors are allowed to prescribe virtually all types of medicines with the exception of narcotics. As long as the doctor doesn’t need to see the patient, everything can be arranged over the phone. The doctor then sends the prescription to the central database by phone or e-mail and the patient goes straight to the pharmacy to pick it up.

But e-prescriptions have not been designed only to make patients’ lives easier. The Health Ministry also hopes to get a better idea of what kind of drugs are prescribed and prevent doctors from forging prescriptions. As for the new system, it has been equipped with control mechanisms to prevent people from abusing it. Petra Keřková again.

“Pharmacies will be connected to the central database by a special router, which enciphers the information sent by the doctors to the central database and doctors who send the prescription will also be required to use an electronic signature.”

The central database was launched at the end of December 2008 and over the next three moths, all pharmacies in the country should be provided with a special hardware that enciphers the information sent to the database.

“All pharmacies will have to be connected to the database by the end of March and we expect doctors to gradually connect as well. The new law doesn’t actually require them to use the new service, but we assume that the patients will push them to use it.”

Some pharmacies in the Czech Republic have already started using the new system of e-prescriptions and, if everything goes well, Czechs should soon be able to pick up their medicines without a paper prescription virtually anywhere they want.