There is no denying that there is an opioid crisis in the United States. Over 130 people die each day in the US because of a drug overdose according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The errors, misuse, and addiction to opioids including synthetic opioids, heroin, and prescription pain relievers, is a serious national crisis that has an impact on public health, and on economic and social welfare.
So, how did this opioids epidemic arise? Well, the pharmaceutical businesses gave the medical community reassurance that patients would not get addicted to opioid pain relievers. This advice was provided in the late 90s. Taking this into consideration, healthcare providers started prescribing opioids in greater amounts. This led to both prescription and non-prescription opioids misuse on a widespread basis. By the time it came into realization that these medications could indeed be very addictive, it was too late.
Data provided by the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health in the United States states that:
- There were 11.4 million misused prescription opioids
- 15,482 deaths attributed to overdosing on heroin
- 2.1 million people with an opioid disorder
- 47,600 people died from overdosing on opioids
So, what is the solution? Of course, there is no magic wand to put an end to this problem nevertheless, one solution to this control this problem is EPCS (E-Prescribing for Controlled Substances). EPCS has been proven to significantly lower medication fraud and prescription errors. In 2010, DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) granted permission for electronically prescribing controlled substances. Now, all the states allow EPCS for medication management.
EPCS when coupled with a patient ‘s comprehensive medication history, helps prevent pharmacy errors. It also prevents “doctor shopping’ by patients in the hope of getting additional prescriptions for opioids. Such policies around EPCS have shown significant advantages – reduced fraud and improved prescribing decisions which are advantageous for all – doctor, pharmacist, and patient.
EPCS has enabled those in the healthcare industry to work more efficiently while also reducing the possibility of forged prescriptions. Clinicians were already e-prescribing non-controlled drugs by using auto signed fax. However, scripts were being printed on paper for scheduled drugs, and then the healthcare professional had to manually sign these, and fax them to the pharmacy. In some cases, a paper prescription was written within a note in the EHR, stating the drug had been prescribed. Not only was this inefficient because it created dual workflows, but it also left plenty of room for forged prescriptions and fraud, which is at the heart of the opioid crisis in the United States.
Before we delve further into the benefits of EPCS, it is important to explain e-prescribing for those unaware. Electronic prescribing means that patients and providers do not require paper prescriptions. Instead, doctors are able to make the most of technology – manually entering the prescription in the system. This information is then transmitted securely to pharmacies. Once received, the pharmacist fills the prescription, rather than requiring the patient to take a paper prescription with them.
The Advantages of EPCS
The major advantage associated with e-prescribing In terms of battling the opioid epidemic is that it gets paper prescriptions off the street. This, in turn, helps lower drug diversion, errors, fraud, and doctor shopping, which can all happen when the paper prescription is in the hands of the patient. However, with EPCS you have a transparent and secure system, which makes it a lot more straightforward when it comes to prescribing controlled substances to those people who actually need them while at the same time making it incredibly difficult to commit abuse or fraud.
Most states across the US have reporting and monitoring systems in place for prescriptions. When a healthcare professional prescribes a controlled substance, this will automatically go into the system. Rather than waiting for pharmacy benefit managers to enter prescription details manually, this information will go into the system in real time. This stops doctor shopping because it means that people are not able to go to numerous doctors within a short space of time and get multiple prescriptions. This showcases another way in which the EPCS is helping to control the opioid crisis in America.
CIO of the Geisinger health system in Pennsylvania has stated that prescriptions have been reduced by 50% since the EPCS was adopted. Other CIOs and healthcare organizations have reported similar stories. This statistic alone shows how the EPCS is helping to make sure that opioids are only attained by those who genuinely need them.
Of course, everything has its challenges, and EPCS is no different. While the benefits are there for all to see, there is no denying that people are going to try and commit fraud through cyber breaches. This explains why each healthcare providers need to have a stringent security policy in place.
To conclude, there is no denying that there is an opioid crisis in the United States and that it is going to take dedicated efforts to get this under control. However, with EPCS you have a system that gets to the root cause of this issue and helps control it by ensuring that prescriptions are not able to get into the hands of those committing medication fraud or abuse.