Prescribers in New York state are now required by law to prescribe using an electronic system that is directly connected to pharmacies.
The New York State Legislature in 2012 passed the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing (I-STOP) Act, which requires all prescriptions to be submitted to pharmacies electronically. Although Minnesota already mandates electronic prescribing (e-prescribing), New York is the first state to assess penalties to physicians and other health care professionals who do not adhere to the new rules. Noncompliant prescribers could be subject to fines, loss of license, or jail. This provision of the law took effect on March 27, 2016.
New York’s requirements are aimed at reducing overprescription of opioids and preventing paper prescription fraud. The law includes language that established a prescription drug monitoring program, an online registry that tracks a patient’s history of opioid use.
“This has decreased doctor shopping by those addicted to pain medications,” said Pharmacists Society of the State of New York Executive Director Kathy Febraio, CAE. The shift to e-prescriptions is also expected to cut down on errors caused by illegible handwriting.
While 95% of pharmacies and 47% of prescribers in the state are equipped to handle e-prescriptions for controlled substances, according to a March 25 news release from nationwide health information network Surescripts, Febraio predicts some “glitches” as New York transitions from paper prescriptions. She believes, however, that the involvement of public policy agencies will help patients, prescribers, and pharmacies adjust.
“Although there is a lot of trepidation as we implement e-prescribing, there is a tremendous level of support from our legislators, State Board of Pharmacy, State Department of Health, the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, and technology vendors that makes this possible,” she said.
Febraio provided a March 16 letter from New York Commissioner of Health Howard Zucker, MD, JD, that outlined “exceptional circumstances” that warrant a waiver of the new requirements. These include medications to be administered intravenously, subcutaneously, or via intraspinal infusion; those prescribed in response to a public health emergency; and durable medical equipment.
Febraio explained that pharmacists are not required to verify that a prescriber properly falls under one of the exceptions from the requirement to e-prescribe. Pharmacists may continue to dispense medications from valid written, oral, or faxed prescriptions that are consistent with current laws, regulations, and Medicaid policies.
“At the forefront of our thoughts is making sure patients get timely and safe access to the care and medications they need,” she said.
For more information, see the expanded version of this article in the upcoming May issue of Pharmacy Today (www.pharmacytoday.org).