Senate Bill Mandates e-Prescriptions to Fight Opioid Crisis | Healthcare Informatics Magazine | Health IT | Information Technology Skip to content Skip to navigation

Senate Bill Mandates e-Prescriptions to Fight Opioid Crisis

February 28, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal
| Reprints

U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Pat Toomey (R-PA) have introduced the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely (EPCS) Act to combat opioid overdoses by requiring electronic prescriptions for controlled substances under Medicare.

In 2016, more than 42,000 Americans lost their lives from opioid drug overdoses, including from prescription painkillers. A Department of Justice report found that misused prescription opioids are often obtained illegally using forged or altered prescriptions and by consulting multiple doctors (“doctor shopping”). The report also determined that most prescription fraud remains undetected.

As such, the EPCS Act aims to reduce the number of opioids obtained through fraudulent prescriptions or doctor shopping. The legislation would direct healthcare providers to use electronic prescribing for controlled substances for Medicare Part D transactions beginning in 2020. “Electronic prescriptions would generate real-time information on opioid use and streamline the prescription process for both providers and their patients,” the senators said in an announcement.

Companion legislation, H.R. 3528, was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK).

“Drug overdoses claim the lives of hundreds of Nevadans each year, which is why it is critical that we do everything that we can to stop the opioid epidemic from touching one more family,” Sen. Heller said in a statement. “This bipartisan legislation takes a critical step toward eliminating doctor shopping and duplicative or fraudulent prescriptions. I appreciate the Administration’s engagement on this issue, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass solutions to address the opioid crisis that continues to rip through communities in Nevada and around the country.”

“We need to be using every tool at our disposal to fight the opioid epidemic,” Sen. Warren added. “I’m glad to partner with Senator Bennet on a bipartisan bill that will help gather better data on the opioid epidemic while also helping healthcare providers make the best decisions for their patients.”

Meanwhile, another group of senators yesterday also introduced legislation addressing the opioid epidemic, which serves as a follow-up bill to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) signed into law in 2016.

According to a report in The Hill, “The bipartisan bill includes some measures similar to those removed from the original CARA bill passed in 2016, such as an initiative to bolster youth recovery support services and a provision requiring physicians and pharmacists to use their state prescription drug monitoring program [PDMP] before prescribing or dispensing opioids.”

PDMPs are tools for healthcare providers to see patients’ prescribing histories to inform their prescribing decisions. Since their inception, PDMPs have proven to be effective in combating prescription drug abuse, misuse, and abuse on a local level. However, the issue of interstate data sharing was an often-cited priority that was not addressed.

Added Politico in its Morning eHealth newsletter, about the legislation, “There's a bit of PDMP language, requiring physicians and pharmacists to use the databases when prescribing or using opioids.” Politico’s newsletter went on to note that the bill “requires state PDMPs to share data but doesn't have clear criteria for judging whether such data is shared.”

Get the latest information on Health IT and attend other valuable sessions at this two-day Summit providing healthcare leaders with educational content, insightful debate and dialogue on the future of healthcare and technology.

Learn More



ONC Avoids 2018 Budget Cuts in New Spending Bill

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s (ONC) funding for 2018 will hold steady through September, at $60 million, as part of a House spending bill that was passed on Thursday.

Global Survey: Nearly Half of Physicians are Not Aware of Blockchain Technology

A survey, conducted by SERMO of 3,700 physicians across the globe, found that nearly half (47 percent) of polled physicians said that they were not aware of blockchain technology.

Wyoming Department of Health to Form Statewide HIE

Wyoming Department of Health plans to form a statewide, medical community-owned health information exchange (HIE), called the Wyoming Frontier Information Exchange (WYFI).

Four Organizations Plan to Form National Health IT Safety Collaborative

Four healthcare- and patient safety-focused organizations have indicated plans to establish a national health IT safety collaborative and are urging the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) to support their efforts.

Finger Lakes Health’s IT Systems Still Down Following Ransomware Attack

Finger Lakes Health, a three-hospital healthcare delivery system in Geneva, New York, continues to use manual and paper processes following a ransomware attack over the weekend, according to local media reports.

Arizona ACO Pilots Blockchain Platform to Improve Clinical Outcomes, Reduce Costs

Arizona Care Network, a Phoenix-based accountable care organization (ACO), plans to pilot a blockchain technology platform developed by Solve.Care with the aim of improving clinical outcomes, relieving healthcare’s administrative burdens, and reducing waste within the system.