Virginia joins the ranks of states using e-prescribing to save lives, combat opioid abuse

Dr. Sean Kelly
Mar 20, 2017

As the nation’s opioid epidemic grows, technology continues to play an increasing role in combatting the crisis. Joining the ranks of Maine and New York, Virginia has now mandated electronic prescribing for opioid medication in an effort to save lives and reduce the fraud and abuse associated with prescription painkillers.

The bill, HB 2165, was just one of a handful designed to fight opioid abuse that Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed into law on February 23, 2017. HB 2165 specifically mandates the electronic prescribing of opioid medications in the state of Virginia starting on July 1, 2020. And other states seem poised to follow suit; with Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Texas among those states that recently introduced proposed legislation to mandate the electronic prescribing of opioids.  

Whether prescribed directly or obtained illegally, prescription painkillers are being abused at an alarming rate and with devastating consequences. In 2015 alone, more than 1,000 Virginians lost their lives to opioid abuse – a 22% increase since 2013.[i] McAuliffe and State Health Commissioner Marissa Levine officially declared the opioid addiction crisis to be a public health emergency in Virginia in 2016.

By digitizing the prescribing process for opioid medications, providers can play a critical role in preventing opioid abuse and increasing patient safety. Reducing doctor shopping and minimizing the risk of stolen or fraudulent prescriptions are just two benefits of e-prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS). Additionally, EPCS can improve workflows, prescription accuracy, compliance rates, and both provider and patient satisfaction. EPCS deters diversion and abuse while simultaneously allowing patients who legitimately need treatment to get timely and safe access to their medication.

While 60% of Virginia’s NON-controlled substance medications were electronically prescribed in 2013, there are a different set of regulations that apply when e-prescribing opioids and other controlled substances. These include a number of DEA requirements that are designed to track and audit prescribers’ EPCS orders, including: 

  • The EHR and/or e-prescribing applications used must be certified as DEA-compliant
  • Pharmacies must be using software certified as DEA-compliant to accept controlled substance prescriptions sent electronically
  • Prescribers must complete an identity proofing process, of which the DEA allows two types
  • Prescribers must use two-factor authentication when signing an EPCS prescription

As a practicing emergency physician in Massachusetts, I’ve seen the power and potential of EPCS first-hand. I’ve also seen how critical it is to partner with the right solutions providers to ensure a smooth, compliant implementation process. For caregivers in a country where opioid overdoses claim the lives of 91 people each day, becoming EPCS-enabled has never been more important. Similarly, in an increasingly value-based world, having a trusted security partner to help ensure EPCS compliance is increasingly valuable.

Guiding providers through the list of DEA requirements and implementation best practices, Imprivata has helped hundreds of hospitals and healthcare organizations across the country in becoming EPCS enabled. For more information, “A Quick Guide to EPCS” outlines the steps that providers must take to enable successful, compliant adoption of EPCS, including what to look for from solution vendors, how identity proofing works, and the roles and processes that must be defined to achieve success. 



[i]  Rudd RA, Seth P, David F, Scholl L. Increases in Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths — United States, 2010–2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:1445–1452. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm655051e1