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As we approach the one-year anniversary of the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities (SUPPORT) Act, I am optimistic about the direction of a key provision outlined in the legislation, that is, the use of electronic prescribing of controlled substance (EPCS) among Medicare Part D providers. Congress passed the SUPPORT Act in October 2018 to address the opioid epidemic, and within the law the SUPPORT Act requires that all Medicare Part D covered controlled substance prescriptions must be transmitted electronically by 2021. Although utilization of EPCS among Medicare Part D prescribers is on the rise, there is still room for growth in order to implement the new law by 2021.

In an effort to help drive adoption of EPCS,  I recently worked with researchers at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) on a data brief, Electronic Prescribing of Controlled Substances among Medicare Part D Prescribers 2015-2016.

In a nutshell, we studied the landscape of Medicare Part D prescribers’ use of EPCS between 2015 and 2016 by prescriber specialty, prescriber state, and by Part D opioid claim volume.

According to the data brief, pain management specialists had the largest proportion of EPCS utilizers, among Medicare Part D Prescribers, that is, 21% of these specialists transmitted their controlled substance prescriptions, electronically. 

Between 2015 and 2016 the proportion of all Medicare Part D prescribers who used EPCS increased from 4% to 11% and Medicare Part D opioid prescribers using EPCS more than doubled, from 5% in 2015 to 13% in 2016. While we still have a long way to go, we’re making progress. For reference, EPCS enablement among all prescribers (not just Medicate Part D) has climbed to more than 41% as of September 2019.

The work that went into this data brief —and the results it generated—also help us to understand which prescribers are using EPCS and the areas of the country where it’s being utilized. Additionally, it provides the analytical framework to anticipate continued growth in EPCS among Medicare Part D prescribers, and follow that trend to 2021 and beyond. It’s worth noting that our findings were consistent with the EPCS state rankings outlined in Surescripts’ 2016 National Progress Report, where New York State led the way in EPCS adoption and utilization, followed by North Dakota, and South Dakota; all states with a higher proportion of Medicare Part D prescribers.

The opioid crisis has devastated countless communities across the country, and this technology can impact patients, heal families and start to rebuild those communities. We must continue working together across the industry and with government in order to impact provider behavior in a way that helps fight the epidemic.

Read ONC’s blog post for more insight into the data report findings.

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