Why Electronic Prescribing of Controlled Substances Matters: the Pharmacy Perspective


In 2010, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) finalized an interim final rule allowing electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS), which promises to deliver a number of benefits for health systems, providers, and patients.

But EPCS also impacts pharmacies, both retail and those inside the hospital. To understand the implications of EPCS for pharmacies, the benefits and the regulatory issues, Imprivata spoke with William T. Winsley, MS, RPh, the former executive director of the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy.

Q: What are the benefits of EPCS for pharmacies?

A: One of the important benefits is the legibility of prescriptions. It is often far easier to read a prescription sent electronically than one that is hand-written. This can help improve accuracy of prescriptions and reduce the number of callbacks from pharmacists to physicians to clarify an order.

Another benefit is the efficiency gains from having all the relevant patient and medication information sent with the prescription. Having this data in a single system makes it easier for pharmacists to verify the prescription is the right drug for the right patient. EPCS is also more secure because pharmacists know where the prescription came from, which is not always the case if a patient brings a paper prescription into the pharmacy.

Q: What are the regulatory requirements for pharmacies to implement EPCS?

A: Similar to the requirements for providers, the DEA interim final rule stipulates that the pharmacy system must be audited by an accredited third-party and certified for EPCS. The onus to achieve this certification is on the systems provider, so pharmacies should obtain a copy of the audit report before they enable EPCS. If the system is properly certified, it will also give pharmacists an easy way to “sign” the script and keep a detailed audit trail.

Q: What are the implications for pharmacies that do not implement the policies, processes and technologies necessary to accept prescriptions for controlled substances electronically?

A: If a pharmacy is not ready to receive electronic prescriptions for controlled substances, they run the risk of losing business. One of the primary benefits of EPCS to physicians is the elimination of dual prescribing workflows—electronic for non-controlled substances and paper-based for controlled substances. Given the choice, the provider will likely send all prescriptions electronically to the pharmacy that is enabled for EPCS. We should see the initial impact in New York, which is the first state to mandate that all prescriptions be sent electronically as required by the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing (I-STOP) Act.

To learn more about EPCS, attend the “Electronic Prescribing of Controlled Substance Is Here, What Should You Do?” webinar on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 1 p.m. EDT. Presented by HIStalk and geared toward clinical, pharmacy, and IT leadership, the webinar will provide an overview of the DEA requirements for EPCS, the benefits and the scope of work involved in implementing EPCS. To register, please click here