EPCS Jumps 256% in One Year

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, June 26, 2017

Many prescribers erroneously believe electronic prescribing of controlled substances is illegal, but experts say it is a key tool in the fight against opioid abuse.

There are many resources and possible solutions in the fight against opioid abuse, but one is gaining traction across the country: electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS).

According to the Surescripts 2016 National Progress Report, there were 45.34 million prescriptions for controlled substances delivered electronically in 2016, representing a 256% increase over the year before.

Experts say that EPCS is a key tool in the fight against opioid abuse, helping to reducing prescription fraud, ensuring that physician orders are followed accurately, and giving prescribers access to a patient's medication history.


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"It is a much more secure process," says Ken Whittemore, vice president of professional and regulatory affairs of Surescripts. "It gives providers and the environment in which they practice more comfort in the process itself."

Yet many prescribers incorrectly believe that EPCS is illegal, according to Kelly Clark, MD, MBA, DFASAM, president of the board of directors of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

"Electronic prescribing of controlled substances is legal in all 50 states," she says. "It is important for C-suite leaders to make sure that the physicians they may employ… are well educated."

Despite this misconception, the 2016 National Progress Report shows that EPCS is growing steadily and at an impressive clip. Surescripts data shows that there were 45.34 million prescriptions for controlled substances delivered electronically in 2016, representing a 256% increase over the year before. Still, this only represents 14.1% of controlled substance prescriptions overall.

Also, compare that to general e-prescribing numbers: There were 1.6 billion electronic prescriptions in 2016, the new Surescripts report said.

One way states are starting to increase e-prescribing rates is through mandates. Minnesota has had a mandate since 2011, and New York State enacted one last year.

"It's been amazing the impact that that's had in the state of New York," Whittemore says, pointing to Surescripts data showing that New York as the No. 1 state for EPCS, with 72.1% of prescribers enabled and 91.9% of controlled substances prescribed electronically.

Alexandra Wilson Pecci

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders Media.

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