A new high-technology medication prescription system eliminates the need for pieces of paper with illegible handwriting, resulting in a more efficient and safer drug-distribution procedure. The system is in limited use so far, but the Hospital Authority plans to extend it to 17 hospitals by the end of 2018. Up to now, doctors have written prescriptions for inpatients by hand and faxed the slips to the hospital pharmacy, where the details were manually put into a computer. Nurses then had to verify the prescription when dispensing drugs in the wards. The new Inpatient Medication Order Entry System, however, allows doctors to prescribe medicine with a computer or mobile device with their own log-in credentials. Pharmacy staff then access the system, cross-check the prescription and attach a QR (quick response) code to the medication packaging. Handheld scanners are used to confirm the patients' details with their identity bracelets. Before, "nurses had to recognise doctors' handwriting. Now we do not have to guess what the doctors are writing," said Chan Lok-sing, designated nurse for the new medication system at Tseung Kwan O Hospital. Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung was the first to use the HK$172 million system in 2013, and four other hospitals adopted it later. Medical errors have since been reduced by 30 per cent, including those caused by illegible handwriting, according to Hospital Authority's internal newsletter last month. The system also alerts health workers to a patient's history, including drug allergies, and specifies the frequency of medication for the prescription. Medical errors due to drug allergies have not happened since the new system was adopted, said Dr Law Chun-bon, chief of service in the department of medicine and geriatrics at Princess Margaret Hospital, which pioneered the system in its infirmary ward. "Each ward has the prescriptions of its own patients. The slips can be printed again" if required, said Dr Cheung Ngai-tseung, head of information technology and health informatics for the Hospital Authority. For now, oncology wards and neonatal units are not ready for the system's complex features. The implementation team for the new medication system, comprising staff from the Hospital Authority's headquarters and three hospitals, has been named as one of the authority's six outstanding teams this year.