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J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2012 Nov-Dec;19(6):1059-65. doi: 10.1136/amiajnl-2011-000779. Epub 2012 Jun 29.

Retail pharmacy staff perceptions of design strengths and weaknesses of electronic prescribing.

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  • 1Social & Administrative Sciences, School of Pharmacy, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, USA.



This paper explored pharmacy staff perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) design in retail pharmacies using the sociotechnical systems framework. This study examined how adoption of e-prescribing technology is affecting clinical practice and patient care.


Direct observations and think aloud protocols were used to collect data from seven retail pharmacies.


Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians reported strengths of e-prescribing design that facilitated pharmacy work which included: legibility, ease of archiving, quick access to prescriptions and consistency in the format of electronic prescriptions (e-prescriptions). Design weaknesses and potential hazards to patient care associated with e-prescribing systems were due to differences between pharmacy and prescriber computer systems which resulted in the selection of wrong patient or drug (name, directions, dose, strength, formulation, package sizes). There were unique strengths and weaknesses in the design of e-prescriptions peculiar to the three pharmacy computer systems examined in this study.


Findings from this study can help inform policy on creating e-prescribing design standards for pharmacy. e-Prescribing system developers can use the results of this study to identify and apply the most usable features of the three main pharmacy computer systems to design systems that support dispensing efficiency and safety.


This is the first study to highlight design flaws with e-prescribing in retail pharmacies. The sociotechnical systems framework was useful in providing an indepth understanding of the pharmacist and pharmacy technician's interface with e-prescribing technology. This information can be used by policy makers to create e-prescribing standards for pharmacies.

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