Military pharmacies nationwide now may accept electronic prescriptions from civilian doctors, eliminating the need for paper or faxed scripts in many cases, according to Defense Health Agency officials.

The transition to an electronic system called e-Rx began in early 2014 and is now available at clinic pharmacies in the U.S., Guam and Puerto Rico.

The program lets military pharmacies receive and process the prescriptions, reducing the time patients must wait to pick up their medications.

Patients seen by military doctors already have their medications entered into an electronic ordering system, but until now civilian physicians could not directly send prescriptions to military pharmacies.

The electronic system not only has the potential to influence wait times, but can help reduce prescription errors, defense officials said.

"E-prescribing makes military pharmacies a more attractive and convenient option for doctors and patients, and it aligns the military health system with current best pharmacy practices," Dr. George Jones, chief of the Defense Health Agency Pharmacy Operation Division, said in a news release.

To use the system, patients can ask their physicians to look for a local military pharmacy in the e-prescribing database. When patients go to pick up their prescriptions at military pharmacies, they must tell staff their prescriptions were sent electronically.

The system is not available for prescriptions for controlled substances. To fill those at a military pharmacy, doctors must still hand-write an order, according to Tricare.

It also cannot be used for medications not carried by the local military pharmacy. Those prescriptions still can be filled at a Tricare network pharmacy or by using the Tricare mail-order system.

Patricia Kime is a senior writer covering military and veterans health care, medicine and personnel issues.

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