The Surescripts Blog

Federal Government Responds to Opioid Epidemic

Paul Uhrig, Chief Administrative, Legal & Privacy Officer

This summer, the federal government stepped up its response to the nationwide opioid epidemic. In late July, H.R. 3528, the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely (EPCS) Act, was introduced in the House of Representatives. If enacted, the EPCS Act will require that controlled substances under Medicare Part D be prescribed electronically. Then, in early August, President Trump declared the situation an emergency and authorized the Administration to use all means necessary to respond to it.

We all know the bad news. More people than ever are dying of opioid overdose, and the latest figures show that opioid addiction rates continue to rise. The good news is that technology exists today to help combat the epidemic. In 2016, more than 1.6 billion prescriptions were processed electronically, including more than 45 million e-prescriptions for controlled substances. Further, providers accessed patient-specific medication history data more than 1.08 billion times – nearly twice the amount it was utilized just three years ago. And more and more clinicians are leveraging record location services to inform the care they provide to patients. In fact, providers accessed patient care location data more than 2.2 million times in 2016. Together, this increased access to patient data helps providers make better prescription decisions for patients, and ultimately improves treatments outcomes.

Electronic prescribing can address drug diversion tied to prescription fraud and forgery by eliminating paper prescriptions. And when e-prescribing controlled substances, additional security measures require prescribers to conduct identity proofing, enable two-factor authentication, and set access controls. With up to nine percent of diverted drugs for abuse tied to fraud or forgery of paper prescriptions, broad adoption of e-prescribing could have a significant impact on the epidemic.

The intent of the EPCS Act is to encourage wider adoption of electronic prescribing, help prevent “doctor shopping,” and reduce costs to the system. A similar effort is well underway in New York, where the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing (I-STOP) law went into effect nearly 18 months ago. In 2016, the rate of prescriber enablement of the technology in New York increased 45.5 percent, with more than 80 percent of prescribers in the state enabled today. This increase in prescriber adoption was possible because electronic health record (EHR) software vendors serving 96 percent of prescribers in New York were already certified to process controlled substance prescriptions electronically. There’s no question that the I-STOP law has been a huge success story, with more than 90 percent of all controlled substances in New York being prescribed electronically last year. But more work is needed at the national level. With just 14 percent of prescribers enabled with the technology nationwide (and 14 percent of controlled substances prescribed electronically), another 10 states are implementing or considering laws to help drive greater adoption and utilization of e-prescribing for controlled substances. For an update on the latest policy developments, check out our new interactive map.

To learn more about how the industry is coming together to support this industry-wide problem, please read our letter of support for H.R. 3528. Prescribers who are interested in implementing e-prescribing for controlled substances can visit www.GetEPCS.com to find out how to get started.

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