When we want to transfer money to someone, we hardly fill out a piece of paper and take it to our bank. Even when we open a bank account, everything from the KYC process to the closing is increasingly digital. Why, then, do we bring a (handwritten…) prescription that we have previously received from the doctor to the pharmacy when we need medication? This procedure is not only kind of ridiculous in this day and age and with the digital possibilities, but also unnecessarily dangerous in times of a pandemic, especially for the elderly and high-risk patients. The digitization of medical prescriptions is long overdue and brings significant benefits not only for patients but for doctors, pharmacies and also health insurers. Learn how this transformation away from traditional to digital prescriptions with intelligent, AI-based OCR (Optical Character Recognition) succeeds in this article.

Unlike the modern workflow in banking, this one in healthcare is one from the metaphorical Stone Age. This workflow, with doctors, pharmacies, health insurance companies, patients and, of course, the medical prescription itself playing the main roles, comes to a standstill, already in theory. If another factor is added at the same time, for example in the form of a pandemic, shipwreck is inevitable. In order to successfully integrate digitization into the healthcare system, medical prescriptions in digital form are an innovative necessity.

The process around obtaining prescription drugs should be as simple as possible for all parties involved, which cannot necessarily be said of the status quo. To a large extent, this certainly has to do with the fact that not only are there too many steps involved from the issuing of a medical prescription by the doctor to the receipt of the medication by the patient, but these are also carried out on a manual basis. From the classic filling of a prescription by the doctor to the submission of the patient’s prescription to the pharmacy, including the pharmacist’s check, to the health insurance company’s check of whether or not the costs will be covered, there are clearly too many manual processes.

In order to relieve the doctor and guarantee him or her the necessary time with the patient (in the practice or via telemedicine), all relevant data on a medical prescription, including the patient’s personal data, the doctor’s data, the health insurance number, the prescription name, number and validity (and dosage, package size), as well as instructions for use are automatically extracted with OCR software, which allows for efficient processing. This enables all relevant medical prescription data to be sent directly and quickly to pharmacies and health insurance companies. Pharmacy staff no longer need to manually enter data, check prescriptions, or even call the doctor’s office if the data is unclear (or unreadable…). Automatically, the prescription is stored securely online, which is an enormous advantage due to simplicity, especially for permanent prescriptions. Thanks to the intelligent OCR, the medical prescriptions can also be processed practically in real-time by the responsible health insurance company or checked in case of ambiguities. Here, an essential role is logically played by the medication itself, which must be covered by the health insurance company in any case. The extraction of all relevant data of the medical prescription by the software thus also automatically gives the patient more clarity without him or her having to take further care of it. Furthermore, prescription drugs no longer even have to be picked up in person at the pharmacy, but can be delivered to the patient’s home on request. In the current (and also in a future) situation with the Corona pandemic, this is an essential factor especially for elderly people in general, as well as risk patients in particular.

Breaking the points down to patient, doctor, pharmacy and health insurance company, the benefits of digital medical prescriptions using intelligent, AI-based OCR look like as follows:

  • Physician: Tedious and manual process steps in the practice are history, medical prescriptions are automatically linked in the system and thus with the patient file, follow-up prescriptions can be guaranteed quickly and securely (without a visit to the practice).
  • Pharmacy: Less bureaucracy thanks to the elimination of manual entry of prescription data. More secure, as delivered directly by attending physician. If a medication is delayed, the patient can be automatically informed and, if necessary, forwarded to another pharmacy.
  • Health insurance: Automatic control and check whether the health insurance company has to cover the costs of the medication. If no, notification internally and then to the patient. If yes, rapid reimbursement of costs to patients.
  • Patient: Less effort due to flexibility, fast and secure. No more paper prescriptions that can get lost or are unreadable.

All those involved in the process, from the doctor to the pharmacy and the health insurance company to the patient, benefit considerably from the future-oriented medical prescription based on intelligent, AI-based OCR.