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Readers Write: Feeling the Pain of Meaningful Use? Try Vicodin

September 29, 2014 Readers Write No Comments

Feeling the Pain of Meaningful Use? Try Vicodin
By David Ting

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Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements state that eligible professionals must transmit more than 50 percent of all permissible prescriptions electronically using a certified EHR system, an increase from a 40 percent threshold in Stage 1.

Although the use of e-prescribing continues to increase (Surescripts reports adoption rates of about 73 percent), many CIOs and other healthcare leaders I meet think they will struggle to achieve the 50 percent threshold without including controlled substances, which are almost always prescribed using paper-based prescriptions.

In today’s frenetic healthcare environment in which clinicians are constantly pressed for time, many default to a single workflow of using paper prescriptions for all medications for simplicity. This decreases utilization of e-prescribing and makes it harder to meet the required 50 percent threshold. In addition, it decreases patient safety and provider efficiency and results in greater inconvenience for patients who are forced to not only pick up a prescription at the provider’s office, but also endure longer wait times at the pharmacy.

For those CMIOs feeling the pain of trying to meet Meaningful Use e-prescribing requirements, Vicodin might provide the answer.

In August, DEA issued a ruling to reclassify hydrocodone combination products such as Vicodin from a Schedule III to a Schedule II controlled substance. This ruling puts tighter controls on how these highly addictive medications can be prescribed. For instance, doctors can prescribe a maximum three-month supply (previously it was six months) before patients need another prescription to be written.

Consider that in 2012, 135 million prescriptions were written for hydrocodone combination products in the US. The ruling could conceivably double this number, which would increase the total number of prescriptions for controlled substances by 25 percent or more. This increase in volume will exacerbate the challenges created by the inability to e-prescribe controlled substances, particularly as it relates to dual workflows for prescribers and the consequential impact on meeting Meaningful Use requirements.

For this ruling to be successful and have the desired impact on reducing drug abuse, systems like electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS) must be implemented to ensure the tighter restrictions are enforced without creating barriers for physicians to write and refill prescriptions for patients truly in need. EPCS makes it far more difficult to obtain highly addictive prescription medication for illicit purposes without placing any undue burden on patients with legitimate needs.

Now that EPCS is allowed by the DEA, providers can choose to include controlled substances as part of their equation for Meaningful Use, as long as the decision applies to all patients and for the entire reporting period. With an EPCS system in place, healthcare providers and organizations can more easily meet Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements for e-prescribing while also realizing all of the additional benefits of EPCS. 

David Ting is founder and chief technology officer of Imprivata of Lexington, MA.

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