Enhancing Patient Safety: Optimizing Prescription Copy Functions in Pharmacy Software

A pharmacy professional enter information into the pharmacy software program.


In the fast-paced world of community pharmacy practice, efficiency and accuracy are paramount. One of the invaluable tools at the disposal of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians is the prescription copy function in pharmacy software. This feature allows for the replication of previous prescription details, expediting the order entry process, particularly for chronic medications prescribed at consistent doses. However, as with any tool, there are risks associated with its misuse.

Order entry errors represent a substantial portion of incidents reported to the National Incident Data Repository (NIDR). Between January and June of 2020, nearly two-thirds of reported incidents were related to order entry. Among these, a notable number were directly linked to the copy function during the prescription entry process.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the benefits and potential pitfalls of the prescription copy function and provide key recommendations to enhance patient safety in pharmacy practice.

The Efficiency and Pitfalls of Prescription Copy Functions

The ability of pharmacy software to copy the details of previous prescriptions during order entry has undoubtedly optimized efficiency in managing chronic medications. For patients with stable conditions requiring consistent dosages, this feature has been a game-changer. It eliminates the need to manually re-enter data, saving time and reducing the chances of transcription errors.

Despite its efficiency, the prescription copy function is not without its challenges. Incidents involving the copy function, such as overdosed or underdosed medications, have raised concerns. A medication like insulin, for instance, can have a frequently changed regimen making it vulnerable to incidents related to the copy function. Many incidents occur when an intended dose change is missed during order entry. Let’s take a closer look at a real incident as an example.

Incident Example from the National Incident Data Repository for Community Pharmacy

In this Manitoba example, the copy function was a contributing factor in an incident that harmed a patient:

A healthcare provider increased a patient’s medication. When entering the new prescription into the system, the pharmacy staff used the copy function to replicate the details from the previous prescription. Unfortunately, in the rush of daily tasks, staff overlooked the dose increase both at order entry and during the pharmacist’s clinical verification process.

2 Simple Recommendations to Make the Copy Function Safer

To address these challenges and prioritize patient safety, here are some key recommendations for pharmacy practice:

One: Create a New Entry for All New Prescriptions 

Instead of relying solely on the copy function, consider creating a new entry for all new prescriptions. Limit the use of the copy function to situations where the prescription remains unchanged from the previous one in the patient’s profile.

Two: Review Original Prescriptions during Verification 

During the verification process, whether for new, hold, or refill prescriptions, take the time to review the original prescription carefully. By doing so, you can help identify incorrect order entries and catch any missed dose changes or other modifications.


Pharmacy software and its prescription copy function are invaluable tools for optimizing efficiency in the management of chronic medications. However, the potential for harm incidents when the function is misused cannot be ignored. By following the key recommendations for safety outlined in this blog post, pharmacy professionals can maximize the benefits of prescription copy functions, while minimizing the risks associated with their misuse.

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