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If you need a role model for leveraging technology in response to the opioid crisis, look no further than Maine.

This time last year, Maine implemented legislation that requires electronic prescribing for opioids. At the time, Maine ranked 25th in the nation based on prescriber and pharmacist enablement and utilization of the technology, known as E-Prescribing for Controlled Substances (EPCS). Now the state is ranked third in the nation, with virtually all its pharmacies and more than half of all its prescribers enabled for the technology as of May 2018. New York leads the nation, having implemented a legislative requirement in 2016 that requires all prescriptions to be delivered electronically, including controlled substances.

Maine State Senator Andre Cushing co-chairs the state’s Opioid Task Force and sponsored the legislation that requires EPCS. We asked him about Maine’s success in driving EPCS adoption among providers. This is what Sen. Cushing had to say: 

“Opioid abuse, what we’re now calling substance use disorder, is impacting Maine’s workforce, our neighbors, our friends. The electronic prescribing of opioids is a tool we can use to confront the epidemic. It creates for providers a tool they can use to have a conversation with a patient who may be at risk for abuse. In addition, the technology helps to create a more robust picture of a patient’s use of opioids, and also helps to identify doctors who may be more lenient or more apt to prescribe opioids to patients who have a problem.”

Like Maine, a growing number of states are mandating e-prescribing in general or some form of EPCS. Nationwide pharmacy enablement for EPCS hit 91.4% in May 2018, while prescriber enablement hit 26.2%. In comparison, pharmacy enablement in Maine is 98.3% and prescriber enablement is 56.9%. The trend toward greater prescriber enablement strongly suggests that legislation (like that in Maine and New York) can help drive greater adoption and arm healthcare professionals with the tools needed to combat opioid abuse.

But how does EPCS help to address the opioid crisis?

It allows for opiate prescriptions to be tracked and securely delivered to pharmacies. The electronic nature of the prescription helps increase patient safety and medication adherence while impeding the fraud and abuse that more easily happens with traditional paper or oral prescriptions.

E-Prescribing can be an effective tactic, but it will take an extraordinary degree of creativity—and perhaps trial and error—to solve the opioid crisis. EPCS alone isn’t likely the answer. Other tools, like Record Locator & Exchange, can help prescribers identify care patterns that might suggest opioid abuse, and Medication History gives prescribers a window into their patients’ past prescriptions, including opioids.

To learn more about how health information technologies can help combat the opioid crisis, visit our website. Start with our page on Electronic Prescribing for Controlled Substances, which includes an interactive policy map with a state-by-state breakdown of EPCS enablement. And for a look at the impact of e-prescribing mandates and prescriber enablement, check out our article about the power and promise of EPCS legislation