The Need to Link EHRs to Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 15,000 people per year are dying from overdoses, a rate that has more than tripled in numbers since 1999. The rate now surpasses automobile accidents as the nation’s leading cause of accidental deaths in the country.  In addition to overdose fatalities, emergency department visits, substance treatment admissions and the costs associated with the prescription drug abuse epidemic have all shot up in recent years.

To combat the problem, the clinicians who prescribe the medications and the pharmacists who distribute these drugs need to have access to comprehensive medication history information that enables them to more effectively do their jobs. They need information that will prevent them from prescribing or distributing drugs that might be dangerous for particular patients due to allergies or potential drug interactions, or from supplying drugs to drug-seeking abusers.

Data contained in Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs),  statewide electronic databases that gather information from pharmacies on dispensed prescriptions for controlled substances (most states that permit practitioners to dispense also require them to submit prescription information to the PDMP), can help.

Indeed, a new report from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT points out that when clinicians can access information from PDMPs through their electronic health records systems, then these clinicians more easily distinguish between patients who legitimately need opioid medications for pain treatment and those who may be seeking to misuse these powerful drugs.  It also provides clinicians with an opportunity to intervene if there are signs of misuse and abuse.

The problem:  Most healthcare information systems are not yet connected to PDMPs.  To address this challenge, the ONC recently launched a new Standards & Interoperability (S&I) Framework Initiative, PDMP & Health IT Integration.

The new S&I Framework Initiative addresses existing challenges including the lack of common technical standards and vocabularies that would enable PDMPs to share computable information with health IT systems that clinicians can use to support clinical decision-making. This S&I Framework Initiative will bring together the PDMP and heath IT communities to establish a standardized approach to retrieve data stored in the PDMPs and deliver it to EHRs and HIEs.

For more information or to join the initiative, click here.