Electronic Prescribing of Controlled Substances (EPCS) was legalized in 2010 and four-and-a-half years later, it's begun to grow in practice, according to a new research effort.
Researchers at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) authored a paper in the Journal for Managed Care looking at the adoption of EPCS and adoption on a national level, since it was legalized in 2010. Using data from Surescripts from July 2012 to December of 2013, they discovered that EPCS increased from 1,535 to 52,423 instances during that time period, and the number and percentage of all pharmacies enabled for EPCS increased from 8,768 (13 percent) to 20,498 pharmacies (30 percent).
The trend is still slow to grow with providers, as only 1 percent of them have prescribed controlled substances electronically. However, it's still growing. In July 2012, only 225 sent electronic prescriptions for controlled substances, a number that went up to 5,101 as of December 2013.
The ONC wrote a blog post on the trend. Tricia Lee Watkins, Ph.D and Meghan Gabriel, Ph.D., say that the number of ECPS grew nearly 3,000 prescriptions per month during the study's time period. The average number of pharmacies that accepted ECPS grew at a rate of 700 per month during the same time period.
The researchers say challenges remain with ECPS, including system security compliance, provider authentication issues, and regulatory hurdles. "As we move toward better health and healthcare at lower costs, the growth of EPCS highlights one opportunity to support safer use and management of prescription medications, including controlled substances," they wrote in the blog.