ABU DHABI // The Health Authority - Abu Dhabi (Haad) hopes to extend its automated prescription approval to doctors next year.
This will allow physicians to receive a confirmation from the insurance company on a prescription while the patient is still in the doctor's office.
E-prescriptions will be linked to Haad, insurance companies and pharmacies.
Currently, with Pharmacy Benefits Management it is the responsibility of the pharmacist to input all the information. If the prescription is rejected the pharmacy will try to resolve the issue by calling the physician, otherwise patients have seven days to make a free follow-up visit to their doctors. With e-prescriptions, however, the doctor can make the change before the patient leaves his office.
Insurance companies are looking forward to the development.
"If we go to e-prescription, we'll be gaining many more advantages," said Dr Jad Aoun, chief medical officer at Daman. "First of all the doctor will be writing the diagnosis properly, we can revert on whether or not the drug is covered so that the patient doesn't have to come back to the doctor and change the prescription.
"The moment the doctor gives his prescription, we know 100 per cent the pharmacist will get his money because it was approved from the beginning. This is the future."
Although the technology exists, the concept needs to be standardised by Haad and, equally important, the market must be ready.
"We need to prepare the market so that every doctor has a computer linked to the internet, is able to have access to the software and get a fast response," Dr Aoun said. "We are ready today, it's only a question of market readiness - how much the provider is accepting that his doctor is keying in the drugs. We have to work on it slowly to convince them to start it."
These concerns are justified, as doctors have expressed mixed feelings about this approach.
Dr Abdelazim Mabrouk, a paediatrician at the Muwaiji Primary Health Care Centre in Al Ain, said that such a concept would help the patient avoid unnecessary to-and-fro between the pharmacy and doctor and cut unnecessary visits.
"All doctors are well trained and educated," he said. "With orientation, I think doctors are capable of handling this responsibility."
Others, however, are concerned that it might distract physicians from their main task.
"Doctors are already very busy consulting with their patients. If you start giving them such administrative tasks, they may not focus on the quality [of their consultation]," said Dr Nisar Ahmed, senior insurance manager at Burjeel Hospital. "I think this responsibility should remain with the pharmacy."
Regardless if the doctor or the patient enters the information, all experts agree a prescription buffer is essential.
"Until now, I don't see any disadvantages to this," Dr Ahmed said. "What's paid and not paid by insurance companies is already clear. This is just a quicker process that is more transparent."