Healthcare organizations are facing a serious societal problem that has become more pronounced in the last 15 years – the widespread abuse of prescription drugs. Controlled substances now account for approximately 10% to 11% of all prescriptions in the United States. Deaths from prescription painkillers have quadrupled since 1999, killing more than 16,000 people in the United States in 2013. Nearly two million Americans, aged 12 or older, either abused or were dependent on opioids in 2013. More than 12 million people reported using prescription painkillers non-medically in 2010 (i.e. without a prescription or for the feeling they cause). The misuse and abuse of prescription painkillers was responsible for more than 475,000 emergency department visits in 2009, a number that nearly doubled in just five years. High profile news stories involving prescription drug abuse (e.g. Brett Favre, Heath Ledger) have also seemingly become more common.
In response to the rapid increase in both the prescribing and abuse of controlled substances in recent years, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has set a number of regulatory requirements for healthcare practitioners and organizations that want to prescribe those controlled substances by electronic means. In order to be able to prescribe controlled substances electronically, the DEA requires a secure, auditable chain of trust for the entire process. In addition, several states are mandating the use of EPCS, including Ohio, Florida and New York (with its I-STOP law).
Overall, it’s hard to argue that EPCS is anything but a positive for the healthcare industry. E-prescribing is a tool that increases efficiency and reduces risk of fraud and errors. A study has estimated that e-prescribing resulted in a decrease in the likelihood of prescription errors by 48%.
So far though, healthcare providers have been slow to adopt EPCS thus far because most states have not had a mandate for it yet, and there are no penalties for non-compliance. However, it is inevitable that more mandates are coming, and I believe that EPCS will inevitably become the de facto standard of prescribing controlled substances. While overall adoption is currently low, it is growing fast as an average of 287 clinicians are adding this capability every month.
Caradigm offers a comprehensive EPCS solution that is a seamless extension of our industry leading Identity and Access Management portfolio. We are actively working with our customer base to help them address EPCS, and are looking forward to partnering with more organizations to help them do their part in tackling this important societal issue. In a follow-up blog post, I will dive deeper into the technical solutions required for EPCS. For additional information, please visit our EPCS page.