How Medical Computers can Help Combat the Opioid Crisis

Prescription opioids have been in the news quite a bit lately. Congress just recently passed sweeping legislation, commonly known as the SUPPORT bill, to help combat the opioid epidemic that has been on the rise the past several years. According to studies done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 115 people per day are dying from opioid abuse. Overdoses have been on a steady rise throughout the country the past several years.

The legislation provides funding for non-opioid painkiller research, funding for addiction treatment programs, as well as reforms for how prescriptions are given and tracked. While these measure are widely praised by medical experts, as well as both political parties as a great step in the right direction, there are still several present day challenges that need to be overcome.

Imprivata and DigiCert Lead the Charge in Electronic Prescription Technology

Because opioid painkillers are considered a controlled substance, physicians traditionally haven’t been allowed to prescribe these medications electronically unless they met certain federal guidelines. Unfortunately, paper prescriptions can be doctored and patients often engaged in “doctor shopping” to fill multiple prescriptions for the same medication. This exacerbated the opioid crisis.

In 2010 the DEA passed the Electronic Prescribing for Controlled Substances (EPCS) guidelines, which has been a game changer. Any practitioner that met EPCS guidelines could electronically prescribe opioid painkillers. What this does is help secure prescriptions, as they go directly from the doctor to the pharmacy. It also creates an audit trail of who is prescribing these medications, as well creating an audit trail for patient behavior making it more difficult for addicts to doctor shop trying to get multiple prescriptions for the same ailments.

One of the key guidelines for a healthcare practitioner to become EPCS compliant is to have two factor authentication set up in their EHR or prescription system. That’s where Imprivata and DigiCert have stepped in. Imprivata is a healthcare-focused security firm that specializes in single sign on technology for healthcare facilities. DigiCert is an SSL certificate authority. The two companies have teamed up to create an automated identity proofing process called Imprivata Confirmed ID, that makes compliance with the FDA’s EPCS program much easier to attain.

Unfortunately, Healthcare Facilities are Lagging Behind

Following the passage of EPCS, pharmacies were quick to adopt best practices in order to be compliant. According to a survey conducted by Tableau in October of 2018, 95% of commercial pharmacies nationwide are EPCS enabled. By comparison, only 30% of prescribers nationwide are EPCS enabled. This massive gap is slowing down efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.

Thankfully things are changing for the better. Currently 13 states have passed laws to mandate EPCS compliance. In addition, the SUPPORT bill mandates EPCS compliance for all Medicare Part D prescriptions by 2021. This should help close the gap between prescribers and pharmacies.

How Can Healthcare Facilities and Doctor’s Offices Gain Compliance?

Two factor authentication is the key to EPCS. Medical grade computers and medical grade tablets with integrated RFID readers, barcode scanners and smart card readers are already set up to be Imprivata certified, which is a major advantage over commercial grade computers that don’t offer these features. Because these units are already Imprivata compliant, falling in line with the Confirm ID process should be much easier. The two factor authentication ensures that only the prescribing physician can log into an approved EMR application and send an opioid prescription to a pharmacy. Without this, compliance with EPCS is impossible.

At Cybernet, all of our medical grade computers and tablets are engineered to have optional two-factor authentication features integrated directly into the device. We only use Imprivata certified components, ensuring a smooth transition to an EPCS enabled solution. For more questions, you can contact us here.

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