The U.S. House of Representatives passes The EPCS Act

On June 19, the U.S. House of Representatives passed important legislation that would “require e-prescribing for coverage under part D of the Medicare program of prescription drugs” by January 1, 2020. Requiring electronic prescription of controlled substances (EPCS) would establish a milestone for the role of information technology in combatting prescription drug abuse, particularly the opioid crisis that has gripped our country. With more than 40 million people nationwide enrolled in a Medicare part D plan, it means that EPCS would need to be in place at nearly all hospitals and healthcare delivery organizations across the U.S. by the beginning of 2020.

The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis that threatens communities nationwide and puts a significant strain on our healthcare industry. Every day, nearly 100 Americans die from opioid overdoses. For every one of these opioid-related deaths, there are 130 chronic abusers and 32 emergency room visits to treat overdoses. As an emergency physician, I see firsthand the physical and emotional toll that opioid abuse takes on patients and their families each day. EPCS can help by significantly minimizing the risk of drug diversion, DEA number theft, forged prescriptions, “doctor shopping,” and other fraudulent or negligent activities that fuel the opioid abuse epidemic.

As a pioneer in EPCS technology, Imprivata is proud to be working closely with healthcare provider systems, information technology partners, professional societies, advocacy groups, and of course, legislators, to support the long-term effort to enact policies enabling effective and usable technologies to stem the tide of the opioid crisis. We hope this federal momentum will continue in the U.S. Senate, and that this important provision supporting EPCS will remain intact. In the meantime, we are pleased to note that state legislatures are not only keeping pace with federal legislation, but even exceeding the scope in many cases. In fact, 10 states (NY, ME, CT, AZ, NC, RI, IA, OK, TN, and VA) have already enacted legislation containing full EPCS mandates for controlled substances prescribed in those states.

We genuinely see e-prescribing of controlled substances as an opportunity to do well by doing good, and we look forward to the continued momentum in support of EPCS.