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E-prescribing's Next Steps: Controlled Substances

By smace@healthleadersmedia.com  
   March 28, 2017

To realize the most benefit for e-prescribing, providers, regulators, and vendors alike must address piecemeal state laws and integrating data from e-prescribing for controlled substances with EHR/EMRs.

Electronic prescribing is now widely used by providers, but it has not yet fulfilled its potential.

Controlled substances can be legally e-prescribed in all 50 states, but use of e-prescribing for controlled substances (EPCS) is not mandatory in 47 states, limiting its benefits at a time when abuse of prescription drugs such as opioids is still grabbing news headlines.

Meanwhile, for e-prescribing in general, physicians who are just beginning to use the electronic system to bypass time-consuming calls to pharmacists when trying to obtain information on the lowest-cost, most-effective drugs for patients are challenged by the lack of transparency of pharmacy pricing and formularies at the point of prescribing any medication.

This could impact patient medication adherence rates if prescription costs are too high.

Despite the challenge that price comparison is not always available when e-prescribing, healthcare leaders are encouraged by the more secure system of e-prescribing.

"E-prescribing provides not only a more secure way of doing things, but a more efficient way of doing things as well, and it's more patient-centric," says Brian Herrick, MD. He is chief medical information officer at Cambridge Health Alliance, a two-hospital safety-net organization that operates three emergency departments and covers about 100,000 lives in the northeast suburbs of Boston.

The number of e-prescriptions written in the U.S. doubled from 2012 to 2015, according to Surescripts, a nationwide health information network connecting providers and pharmacies.

Because practitioners are electronically prescribing, it eliminates the need for patients to carry paper prescriptions to pharmacies, circumventing problems created by illegible handwriting on paper prescriptions.

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Scott Mace is the former senior technology editor for HealthLeaders Media. He is now the senior editor, custom content at H3.Group.

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