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Combating the Opioid Crisis using Health Information Technology

In the last two years, the opioid crisis has captured the attention of the health community and there has been increasing attention from the federal government related to addressing the underlying factors of the opioid crisis. The statistics surrounding the abuse of opioids are troubling as the number of individuals in the United States abusing opioids continues to grow. A 2013 study cited by the National Institute of Drug Abuse found that among those who abuse heroin, approximately 79.5% reported their addiction developed after misusing opioid painkillers1. It is estimated that in 2016 and 2017, 11.4 million Americans abused their prescription opioid painkillers and over 40,000 Americans died as a result of opioid addiction2.

The use of electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS) is one mechanism being used by the healthcare community to combat the opioid crisis. When clinicians use electronic methods for prescribing controlled substances that have a strong potential for abuse, the data can be tracked and analyzed downstream in ways that can prevent or identify overprescribing. For example, many states are collecting EPCS data into state databases that can be analyzed to identify healthcare providers who are potentially overprescribing and patients who may be abusing healthcare services by “doctor shopping” for opioids across the state. In attempt to combat the opioid crisis, these prescription drug monitoring databases are also being expanded and states are beginning to implement mandates requiring prescribers to check whether a patient was prescribed an opioid by another clinician before a new opioid prescription is sent to the pharmacy. Just last week, a California mandate went into effect that requires prescribers to check the state’s prescription drug monitoring database, CURES, prior to ordering particular controlled substances including oxycodone, diazepam, codeine and fentanyl.

As an EHR focused on serving medical providers in small practices, rural communities and solo practitioners, we feel that offering EPCS on our platform will help bring the benefits of electronic prescribing to clinicians who may not have previously had access to this service. The Practice Fusion EHR platform includes EPCS in all 50 states and partners with pharmacies, imaging centers, clinical labs, and other members of the healthcare ecosystem to make healthcare more accessible and safer for everyone. Practice Fusion works to bring physicians and clinicians a product that will not only better their practice, but that also reflects the needs of their patients.

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