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How can EHRs Combat Prescription Drug Misuse?

Dovetail Medicine

Prescription drug misuse is a growing concern for the country. Patients can misuse prescription drugs in a variety of ways. Some people do not follow the recommended dosage. Others allow friends or relatives to use their prescription drugs without consulting the doctor. Pain medication is the most frequently misused category of medication but patients abuse other types of prescription drugs as well.

The Problem with Monitoring and Reporting Systems

Different states have implemented various systems to address this issue. To combat prescription drug misuse, regulators need to identify patients with a history of drug misuse or a propensity for adverse reactions. They also need accurate information on when and how prescriptions are filled and collected by users. State governments like Connecticut and Nebraska have prescription monitoring and reporting systems to precisely track opioid usage.

However most of these systems are a patchwork of different tools. Each tool then requires a different login and password for the doctor or pharmacist. Quite often doctors cannot find the required information until it is too late. This means that people who misuse these drugs can fill their prescriptions before the pharmacist is alerted to the situation.

Incorrect data and delayed reporting also allow patients to go ‘doctor shopping.’ It refers to the practice of visiting multiple doctors in the hope that one of them will prescribe the medication that the patient wants. Prescription drug misuse has resulted in increased emergency room admissions, fatalities as well as addiction among the patient population.

The lack of a cohesive and streamlined monitoring system also hurts patients who do not misuse prescription drugs. The doctor or pharmacist insists on waiting for the results from the reporting systems before prescribing a drug. This leads to delays and possible errors as well.

How Can EHRs Combat This Problem?

Different entities in the healthcare industry are finally waking up to the scale of the problem. A few organizations have started to work with technology vendors to integrate prescription drug usage data within their EHR systems. Some states have also passed legislative action that pushes for greater integration between state drug reporting systems and other health initiatives. This state drug reporting system should be able to exchange standardized data with prescribing entities in a timely manner.

This integration allows doctors to view any patient’s history with prescription drugs and controlled substances. All this information is available from inside their EHRs. They do not have to log into multiple systems to track down relevant information. It becomes much easier to identify patients with a history of drug abuse or those that at potential risk of prescription drug misuse. It can prevent practices such as doctor shopping since every doctor in the state has timely access to the patient’s prescription history.

Optimizing multiple systems and streamlining the process in this way benefits everyone in the industry. The drug reporting and monitoring systems have more accurate data to track at-risk patients. It restricts access to controlled substances for patients who have a history of misuse. On the flipside of the coin, patients (who don’t misuse prescription drugs) no longer have to wait inordinate amounts of time for their medication. Doctors and pharmacists no longer have to wait for the prescription history or rely on incorrect data when making medical decisions.

As with any other initiative, integrating state prescription data with EHRs is an ongoing program. It is not a simple task and requires considerable collaboration among various entities. It takes a lot of money, time and work to exchange data between multiple systems. Fortunately regulatory agencies appear determined to push forward in a bid to address the problem of prescription drug misuse.