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.”

Deann Beck is a pharmacist at Hartig Drug in Dyersville. She said patients will not see a big difference in service. “Patients should not notice much of a difference from the new law, other than they should not have to worry about keeping track of a hard copy prescription until they get to the pharmacy. Electronic prescribing has been happening since I can remember and this is how a majority of prescriptions already come to the pharmacy.”

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.

Beck sees both pros and cons to the new law. “Many times, the prescription should beat the patient to the pharmacy and we can get working on it before they get here which could potentially shorten wait times.” She said another positive is that it is supposed to cut down on fraudulent prescriptions.

On the flip side, technology sometimes creates problems for its users. “It can lead to more work for the pharmacy if doctors’ offices can’t find what they want to prescribe and just pick something in the system,” Beck said. “If doctors’ office computers are down it will cause more problems, and sometimes there is a delay in the electronic system which could lead to longer wait times.”

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.