One of the new laws that went into effect Jan. 1 that will potentially affect many who seek medical care in Iowa is House File 2377 (2018 Iowa Acts), which mandates the electronic transmission of all prescriptions, including all controlled substances unless specifically exempted. All health care providers, excluding veterinarians, are included in the law.

Electronic prescribing, or “e-prescribing,” allows health care providers to enter prescription information into a computer device, such as a tablet, laptop or desktop computer, and securely transmit the prescription to pharmacies using a special software program and connectivity to a transmission network.

“E-prescribing has been shown to decrease prescribing and medication errors, and enhance the safety of and quality of the prescribing process,” said Andrew Funk, executive director of the Iowa Board of Pharmacy. “It’s also an important part of the fight against opioid misuse, as e-prescriptions are much less likely to be falsified.”

Eric Strathman is a pharmacist for MercyOne, which has a location in Cascade. He said not much has changed from the providers’ standpoint. “I do not expect much of a change. From the pharmacy perspective, we were ready in 2018 and have been using the technology since then.”

Iowa is one of 15 states with e-prescribing mandates. In most instances, Iowans treated with prescription medications will no longer be given a paper slip to take to a pharmacy; instead, the prescription will be electronically sent to their pharmacy of choice. This includes C2 prescriptions that have historically been written and required to be hand-delivered to the pharmacy. All C2 drugs contain narcotics, stimulants and central nervous system depressants like codeine and hydrocodone. Existing prescriptions with refills will continue to be filled until the prescription expires or the refills are exhausted. Practitioners will still be able to order a 90-day supply of medication as well; it will simply be ordered electronically.

Anything electronic works well provided there are no interruptions in service, but no power grid is foolproof. Strathman sees that as one potential drawback. “In general, I am skeptical about anything mandatory. I do see this as a positive move to creating a complete electronic medical record and this should benefit us as patients and providers. This will eliminate having to mail or drive in to pick up written prescriptions, which can be very slow.”

He cautions, “Technology is terrific when it works as it is supposed to, but a nightmare when it does not. In the old days of computers, the backup plan was to have a typewriter to type labels if the computers went down. It did not take long to figure out you needed a manual typewriter when the power was out. We will find a way to make it work. It has improved patient safety and even sped up the process in most cases. This should be an advancement inpatient care.”

Iowans with questions about the new requirement should speak to their prescriber or pharmacist. For more information and to see a list of frequently asked questions, visit https://pharmacy.iowa.gov/misc/electronic-prescribing-mandate.