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New York will soon require all drug prescriptions to be issued electronically

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NEC Corporation of America / Flickr (Creative Commons)

In the very near future, patients around New York will soon become unencumbered from the indecipherable handwriting of doctors. On March 27, New York will become the first state to mandate all prescriptions are made electronically and sent to straight to pharmacies, according to the New York Times.

The move to electronic prescriptions was meant to be implemented last year, but the date was pushed back when state lawmakers voiced concerns over the software’s security and lack of approval from the Federal Drug Administration. While the requirement does not go into effect until March 27, Lenox Hill Hospital in the Upper East area of New York City began following the mandate on March 1.

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prescription pills

“Paper prescriptions had become a form of criminal currency that could be traded even more easily than the drugs themselves,” said New York state attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman, who assisted in writing the legislation for electronic prescriptions, speaking with the New York Times. Schneiderman believes making the switch to electronic prescriptions will help “curb the incidence of these criminal acts and also reduce errors resulting from misinterpretation of handwriting on good-faith prescriptions.”

Between 2013 and 2014, 27 million controlled substance prescriptions were written in New York State when the population was just 20 million, according to the State Health Department. The electronic prescription mandate is the second part of I-Stop, a 2012 state bill meant to curb the growing epidemic of falsified prescriptions. In August 2013, a central database known as the Prescription Monitoring Program Registry was set up as part of the I-Stop legislation to collect, monitor, and report all data regarding prescribing and dispensing controlled substances.

This new law may reduce opioid-related deaths (which hit a total of 1,227 in 2013), but it will not completely rid you of your doctor’s horrible handwriting. Handwritten prescriptions are still acceptable under certain circumstances — such as technical problems, when the medication will be filled outside of New York State, and in the case of non-medicinal prescriptions for things like crutches.