E-Prescription of Controlled Substances Tackles the Prescription Epidemic

September 6th, 2016 - By Kevin V. Nguyen

America is in the midst of a prescription drug epidemic. The latest CDC report states:

  • Providers wrote nearly a quarter of a billion opioid prescriptions in 2013, which is enough for every American adult to have their own bottle
  • More than 165,000 people have died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids, from 1999 to 2014,
  • Today, at least half of all U.S. opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid.
  • In 2014, almost 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids.

How do we combat this epidemic?  We tackle prescription misuse at the point of prescribing. Prescription opioid misuse, fraud, and abuse are preventable problems that can be tackled which medical technology like e-prescriptions of controlled substances (EPCS). Just as electronic health records (EHRs) have transformed medical record keeping, EPCS creates an electronic workflow many times more accurate and efficient than paper-based prescriptions. Providers who use EPCS are able to harness patient data when prescribing medication, giving them an accurate and meaningful way to look at patterns and trends. One of our partners, Surescripts has led the drive to implement EPCS on a national scale, with promising results. Let’s look at the data behind EPCS and its role in combating prescription abuse.

The Growing Role of EPCS in the Prescription Epidemic

EPCS has grown dramatically in recent years.  Now allowed in all 50 states, the number of EPCS transactions rose from 1.67 million to 12.8 million last year – a 600% increase, according to Surescripts‘ 2015 National Progress Report. The number of EPCS-enabled prescribers also rose 359%, from 15,195 in 2014 to 69,800 in 2015.

PrognoCIS has supported EPCS since 2013, as we’ve recognized the value of EPCS in combating the prescription abuse epidemic. In our partnership with Surescripts, we have enabled EPCS for all our providers.

“Today thousands of PrognoCIS providers are using e-prescription for non-controlled substance drugs but are forced to print prescriptions for DEA class I, II, III, IV, and V. The new EPCS feature will eliminate the need to print such prescriptions. It will be a great relief for physicians and patients and will also control the possible misuse of printed prescriptions,” said Vinay Deshpande, CEO of Bizmatics in a 2013 press release.

E-Prescription, Key Benefits

America is slow to take on e-prescriptions in general, though with upcoming value-based healthcare legislation MACRA, e-prescription will be a key criterion in showing meaningful use. Supporting e-prescriptions sooner rather than later will give providers an edge, not only in meaningful use requirements but in the competitive health market. Let’s look at some of the benefits of e-prescription:

    • Patient Satisfaction through Convenience: The electronic workflow that e-prescribing provides gives clinical staff and patients a level of convenience with prescriptions. Patients can request refills of prescriptions online and doctors and prescribe at the click of a button. Paper-based prescription methods take substantial and often require visits to the office. Convenience leads to patient satisfaction, which leads to better health outcomes.“E-prescribing controlled substances enable physicians to transition patients from being imposed upon to being cared for. With EPCS, patients don’t have to grovel and repeatedly explain why they need their medications. Before EPCS, if you realized you needed a refill and the office was closed, you were out of luck. Now, physicians can easily take care of it, no matter where they are in the world.”, says James Holly, M.D. CEO, Southeast Texas Medical Associates (SETMA).
    • Improves Patient Safety: E-prescribing creates an electronic paper trail which can reduce or prevent misuse and abuse. E-prescriptions have safeguards versus drug allergies, inappropriate dosing, and duplication. E-prescription also minimizes problems inherent with paper-based prescriptions, such as illegible handwriting.“With EPCS, every single step of the decision-making process as it relates to prescribing a controlled substance is documented automatically. In other words, now, we document it as we prescribe it. When a provider is audited, EPCS helps produce the required documentation in an instant, rather than having to manually track everything, which is virtually impossible due to the time and energy involved.”, says James Holly.
    • Pattern Analysis: E-Prescription modules allow for data analysis of prescription use. Data is analyzed and transformed into actionable tasks—patterns, outliers, and ways to prescribe more efficiently.
PrognoCIS e-Prescription Module Powered by Surescripts
PrognoCIS e-Prescription Module with Pattern Analysis

EPCS, a Step Towards a Better Future

The shift towards value-based care has been accompanied by new, cutting-edge techniques in electronic healthcare.  EPCS one of the ways we are using technology to tackle solvable problems like the prescription epidemic.

However, we are far from where we need to be with EPCS. Though we’ve seen substantial growth with EPCS, it only accounts for 12% prescriptions made each year. We believe that EPCS is an important step towards tackling the prescription epidemic. Using data to solve problems is another function of a population health analysis, something that will be key in the future of healthcare.

Picture Credit: Open Source Prescription/Flickr

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