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Dermatol Online J. 2001 Feb;7(1):1.

Electronic prescribing: criteria for evaluating handheld prescribing systems and an evaluation of a new, handheld, wireless wide area network (WWAN) prescribing system.

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Department of Dermatology, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.



The objectives of this study were: 1) to establish criteria for evaluating handheld computerized prescribing systems; and 2) to evaluate out-of-box performance and features of a new, Palm Operating System (OS)-based, handheld, wireless wide area network (WWAN) prescribing system. The system consisted of a Palm Vx handheld organizer, a Novatel Minstrel V wireless modem, OmniSky wireless internet access and ePhysician ePad 1.1, the Palm OS electronic prescribing software program.


A dermatologist familiar with healthcare information technology conducted an evaluation of the performance and features of a new, handheld, WWAN electronic prescribing system in an office practice during a three-month period in 2000. System performance, defined as transmission success rate, was determined from data collected during the three-month trial. Evaluation criteria consisted of an analysis of features found in electronic prescribing systems.


All prescriptions written for all patients seen during a three-month period (August - November, 2000) were eligible for inclusion. Prescriptions written for patients who intended to fill them at pharmacies without known facsimile receiving capabilities were excluded from the study. The performance of the system was evaluated using data collected during the study. Criteria for evaluating features of electronic prescribing systems were developed and used to analyze the system employed in this study.


During this three-month trial, 200 electronic prescriptions were generated for 132 patients included in the study. Of these prescriptions, 92.5 percent were successfully transmitted to pharmacies. Transmission failures resulted from incorrect facsimile numbers and non-functioning facsimile machines. Criteria established for evaluation of electronic prescribing systems included System (Hardware & Software), Costs, System Features, Printing & Transmission, Formulary & Insurance, Customization, Drug Safety and Security.


This study is the first effort to establish comprehensive criteria for evaluating handheld prescribing systems and to evaluate the performance and features of a handheld, electronic prescribing system. The results demonstrated that the evaluated system: 1) was simple to install; 2) successfully interfaced with a commonly used practice management system; 3) was user-friendly and easy to operate; 4) offered a robust variety of standard features; and, 5) resulted in a high rate of success for transmitting electronic prescriptions. The criteria established for the evaluation of features of an electronic prescribing system can be used to critically evaluate the performance and features of other handheld and personal computer-based electronic prescribing systems.

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