DrFirst Healthcare Technology Blog

Key benefits of e-prescribing controlled substances

Electronic Health Records

July 26, 2016

Better workflow efficiencies, improved patient safety and decreased drug abuse and diversion are just some of the wide-reaching benefits of electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS).

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration gave its official approval of EPCS in 2010 when the DEA revised its regulations to give practitioners the option of transmitting Schedule II-V prescriptions electronically. The regulations also allow pharmacies to receive, dispense and archive these EPCS orders.

Opioid addiction, drug diversion and overdose deaths are among the primary forces driving the push toward controlled substance e-prescribing. Today, all 50 states and the District of Columbia now authorize EPCS. New York is the first state to require it—and back up its mandate, known as ISTOP, with tough penalties for noncompliance. Luckily, getting started e-prescribing legend drugs and controlled substances is easy.


8 key benefits of EPCS 

  • Improves patient safety. E-prescribing typically enables clinical alerts to guard against drug-to-drug and drug-to-allergy interactions, inappropriate dosing, duplicate therapies and patient status, such as pregnancy or breast-feeding. E-prescribing also reduces common errors inherent in paper-based prescribing, including illegible handwriting, misinterpreted abbreviations and unclear dosages. Combining medication history with automated clinical decision support helps providers avoid over-prescribing or prescribing medications that may cause adverse drug events.
  • Increases workflow efficiency and ROI. EPCS eliminates the need to handwrite prescriptions alongside the electronic prescription that most clinicians use for ordering legend drugs, and can reduce the amount of call-backs from pharmacists who need to clarify an order. A 10-physician practice, on average, spends $19,444 annually simply returning phone calls to pharmacists, manually processing refills, resolving issues related to formulary, dosage and legibility, according to a 2004 study by the Medical Group Management Association.
  • Increases security. E-prescribing provides pharmacists with assurance that the prescription they receive is exactly what the provider ordered and has not been tampered with. Certified, audited application vendors like DrFirst are the only entities that can communicate EPCS transactions to pharmacies. And because electronic prescriptions are delivered directly to the pharmacy, the physician’s DEA number is not exposed to the patient or other parties.
  • Enables cost savings for patients. Prescribers can view in real-time whether—and how much—a patient’s insurance plan will pay for a given medication. Depending on the health plan, lower-cost alternatives may be displayed, as well as actual patient co-pays for a given pharmacy.
  • Reduces doctor shopping. E-prescribing technology can be configured with a medication history module and, in the future, to interstate Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) data, allowing providers and clinical staff to capture and view more complete prescription histories at the point of care.
  • Facilitates prescriber pattern analysis. EPCS analytics reporting can reveal variations in controlled substance prescribing patterns among peers. This allows providers to identify and address reasons for outlier patterns, perhaps avoiding unexpected inquiries from law enforcement, other regulators and news media.
  • Increases patient satisfaction. Real-time patient clinical decision support information is combined with transparent drug pricing models, enabling clinicians to not only select the most therapeutically appropriate medications for the patient, but also the most cost-effective. And having medications ready when the patient arrives at the pharmacy, with the formulary compliance check already in place, provides a more convenient, streamlined experience for patients and paves the way for better medication adherence.
  • Achieves full interoperability. E-prescribing is one of the only areas in healthcare IT where it is relatively easy to exchange clinical information, such as medication history. Interoperable state PMPs also are expanding quickly.

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About the Author

Peter Kaufman CMO

Schooled at MIT, Dr. Kaufman nurtured a strong interest in medical informatics while a Bowman Gray School of Medicine faculty member. After entering private practice he founded PiNK software in 1996 to produce EMR software, later becoming DrFirst’s chief medical officer upon its founding. He lectures nationally on various healthcare IT topics, and as a board certified gastroenterologist, he continues a limited clinical practice. Dr. Kaufman is a member of the Health IT Standards Committee, Privacy and Security Workgroup for ONC (Office of the National Coordinator for Healthcare Information Technology). Representing the American Gastroenterology Association’s (AGA), Dr. Kaufman is a delegate to the AMA and was the co-chair of the Physicians Electronic Health Record Consortium (PEHRC). He has participated on workgroups at CCHIT (stand-alone e-prescribing), HIMSS (e-prescribing), and NCPDP (e-prescribing).

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