Readers Write: Green Light: Why Healthcare Providers Need to Migrate to NCPDP’s Updated E-Prescribing Standard
Green Light: Why Healthcare Providers Need to Migrate to NCPDP’s Updated E-Prescribing Standard
By Andrew Mellin, MD
Andrew Mellin, MD, MBA is VP/CMIO of Surescripts of Arlington, VA.
When you see a green traffic light, what action comes to mind? Assumingly, “go.” But as late as the 1920s, a green light meant stop in some American cities and go in others, creating a dangerous driving experience for drivers used to different systems for traffic lights and patterns. As a result, the Federal Highway Administration mandated in 1935 the national standardization of the red, yellow, and green color scheme that we know today.
Although we don’t often think about standards, they are essential for standardizing materials, products, methods, and services, which result in safety, efficacy, efficiency, and quality control. This is especially true across healthcare.
Since 1997, the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs, or NCPDP, has maintained a national standard known as SCRIPT for electronic prescriptions. The NCPDP SCRIPT Standard for e-prescribing facilitates the transfer of prescription data between various healthcare stakeholders and plays an important role in helping reduce administrative burdens for providers and increasing patient safety.
Unlike traffic lights, healthcare technology is constantly evolving and improving. That’s why in 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule adopting the NCPDP SCRIPT Standard v2017071 for E-Prescribing and Medication History for Medicare Part D. This standard sets out to modernize e-prescribing and medication history and improve patient safety and clinician workflows.
Most of the industry has migrated to this new standard, and the tremendous work that thousands of stakeholders across the country have done to upgrade their pharmacies and electronic health records should be applauded. But healthcare providers who haven’t completed this process are subsequently missing out on new features and risk potential disruption to their ability to electronically prescribe medications.
SCRIPT v2017071 makes hundreds of improvements to the e-prescribing process. The enhancements from this version fall into three categories: information sharing, patient safety, and administrative burdens.
The 2017071 standard adds new data segments, elements, and codes to prescriptions that more clearly communicate the prescriber’s intent to the pharmacy. In terms of patient safety, prescribers can now share patient allergies and preferred language with the pharmacy. Finally, the standard helps minimize manual processes that require healthcare providers and pharmacies to step outside their workflows to exchange critical patient care information. For example, it enables pharmacies to request prescriptions for medications they have not previously dispensed electronically versus using fax machines or making telephone calls.
CMS required that healthcare providers sunset the previous NCPDP SCRIPT Standard – v10.6 – by December 31, 2019. With the CMS deadline now more than 18 months behind us, the rest of the healthcare industry is officially retiring SCRIPT v10.6. For healthcare providers who don’t complete their migration by September 1, 2021, their users may begin experiencing service disruptions and will not have access to Surescripts E-Prescribing services.
Migration to SCRIPT Standard v2017071 takes time and work, so healthcare providers must not delay. Organizations can navigate their transition by talking to their EHR or e-Prescribing vendor and by leveraging resources like the NCPDP SCRIPT Implementation Recommendations guide.
NCPDP SCRIPT is more than a standard; it represents our innovative efforts to find better ways to share information and support the health and wellbeing of patients in the United States. The migration light is green, so healthcare providers must hit go.