Physician societies, patient groups and federal and state agencies are rarely on the same page; so, on an occasion where they unanimously and enthusiastically support a common objective, things must move quickly, right? Not quite.
For about a decade, electronic prescribing (also known as “e-prescribing”) has been praised for its promises of reducing deaths and injuries associated with illegible handwritten prescriptions, enhancing efficiency, reducing costs and minimizing the possibility of fraud. Nevertheless, despite many initiatives to promote e-prescribing, a distinct minority of physicians actively use the technology.
One of the primary reasons for the healthcare community’s slow adoption of e-prescribing relates to certain Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) restrictions. Specifically, healthcare providers who have adopted e-prescribing have been forced to continue using paper prescription pads for controlled substances (which account for approximately one-quarter of all prescriptions) in view of DEA regulations preventing the use of e-prescribing for Methylphenidate (Ritalin), Oxycodone, and the like. This is about to change.
DEA’s new proposed rule would permit doctors to electronically prescribe certain controlled substances that had, up to this point in time, been off limits for e-prescribers. Under the proposed rules, a healthcare provider would have to satisfy the following to qualify as an e-prescriber of controlled substances:
- Each provider must be properly registered (or exempt) to dispense controlled substances.
- He or she must appear in-person before a licensing board (or other designated entity) to provide identification and proof of his or her right to prescribe controlled substances.
- Each e-prescriber may only use approved e-prescribing technology and systems.
- Two-factor authentication (e.g., password and biometric device, electronic key, etc.) must be used for e-prescribing and the e-prescribing provider has an obligation to review his or her e-prescibing logs on a monthly basis, immediately report potential breaches, and take other security precautions.
The comment period for the proposed rule extends through September 25, 2008. If you would like to have DEA consider your comments regarding the proposed rule, you may submit them to DEA on or before the deadline.
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