Electronic signatures

When is an electronic signature acceptable?

Never, at the moment. However, you may accept prescriptions faxed directly to your pharmacy from a physician's EMR. In the absence of a handwritten signature, the physician's password access to their EMR may be considered the prescriber's direct authorization (i.e. meets the requirements for a signature in ACP's standards). 

Electronic transmission of prescriptions in limited circumstances became acceptable when the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) standard entitled Prescribing came into effect in March 2016. The CPSA standard is designed to allow electronic transmission of prescriptions in the future when approved or official secure, system-to-system messaging between physicians' Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and Netcare and/or Pharmacy systems become available. 

The obligation for a pharmacist or pharmacy technician to determine the authenticity of prescriptions has not been removed. It is expected that you will assess the authenticity of the prescription as you have done in the past for prescriptions faxed to your pharmacy. If you have any doubts or concerns about the authenticity of a prescription, you should contact the prescriber for confirmation. 

Acceptable

  • Prescriptions produced by computer and hand-signed by the prescriber or with an electronic signature that is then signed or initialled by the prescriber and delivered by the patient are acceptable. However, it is your responsibility to ensure the prescription is authentic, just as you would for a prescription which is handwritten.
  • Prescriptions that are produced by computer and hand-signed by the prescriber, or with an electronic signature and signed or initialled by the prescriber, that are then faxed to the pharmacy.
  • Prescriptions faxed directly to a pharmacy from a physician's password-protected EMR.

NOT acceptable

  • Prescriptions emailed to you.
  • Prescriptions produced by computer but not signed by the prescriber, or prescriptions with an electronic signature that is not signed or initialled by the prescriber (unless faxed directly from physician's EMR). There are insufficient security measures in place to ensure the validity of prescriptions sent electronically.

For best practices, refer to Ensuring Safe & Efficient Communication of Medication Prescriptions.

References:

Alberta College of Pharmacists, Standards of Practice for Pharmacist and Pharmacy Technicians, Standard 6 
College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta, Standards of Practice, Prescribing
CPSA Physician Prescribing Practices Program FAQs