Prescription tracking will help prevent drug abuse, fraud: Yukon pharmacist

Yukon is making progress towards tracking prescriptions through electronic records, though it's still at least six months away. The system "will certainly help prevent drug abuse," says the president of of the Yukon Pharmacists Association.

Yukon Drug Information System part of a $10M project to digitize medical records

'It may help, certainly, preventing duplication and patients going to different pharmacies with different prescriptions,' says Josianne Gauthier, president of the Yukon Pharmacists Association. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Yukon is making progress towards tracking prescriptions through electronic records, and pharmacists say that's good news.

"It will certainly help prevent drug abuse, by allowing pharmacists to see what medications have been filled in other pharmacies," said Josianne Gauthier, president of the Yukon Pharmacists Association.

Gauthier also says the Drug Information System — still at least six months away — could help to prevent fraud.

The system was recommended last year by Yukon's chief coroner after a 35-year-old man died from mixed drug overdose.

A coroner's report said the man had "a history of multi-doctoring," and had visited multiple clinics for prescriptions to obtain drugs at several pharmacies.

'We're not going to be burning paper at the end of this,' said Birgitte Hunter of Yukon's health department. Archives will be preserved, but the territory is moving towards electronic record-keeping. (CBC)

An electronic system would provide "a complete list of medications and prescriptions a patient has received. Even if they fill them in different pharmacies," coroner Kirsten MacDonald said.

Gauthier says the new system could also prevent unintended mixing of drugs, as could happen when an unconscious patient is brought to hospital in the middle of the night. 

"When a patient is admitted to the hospital or the emergency department, it's quite difficult to determine what the patient is taking," he said.

"We currently have to phone around and fax to request medication profiles from the pharmacies. Whereas with the drug information system, available online 24/7, we will be able to see all their prescriptions."

Catching up

The Drug Information System is just one of several initiatives that are part of a $10 million project to digitize Yukon health records. 

The project also involves digital tracking of laboratory results, and an electronic client registry system for new patients. 

Some of the new systems are already in use. 

Birgitte Hunter, with Yukon's department of health and social services, says lab technicians are now tracking results using barcodes. 

'What it's doing is it's catching us up with the rest of the country,' said Hunter. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

"There's less chance of paper not getting to the right place, there's a timing issue. A nurse in a community may be able to go electronically and see that the results have come back to the Yukon Hospital Corporation rather than waiting for something to be faxed or mailed," Hunter said.

"What it's doing is it's catching us up with the rest of the country."

The Drug Information System's launch is being promised for December 2016 with more widespread use by spring 2017. The project is largely funded by Health Canada, through a project called Infoways.