Health IT Now, a coalition of patient groups, provider organizations, employers and insurers, is calling for a strong national focus on modernizing prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP) in response to the opioid crisis.

To maximize effectiveness in combatting the crisis, the monitoring programs need full interoperability and data sharing among prescribers and other clinicians, the group contends.

Overall, Health IT Now is pleased with the Trump Administration’s Opioid Commission recommendations that recognize the importance of leveraging heath information technology to better respond to the opioid epidemic.

However, it’s calling for stronger efforts to ensure better data sharing.

“Specifically, the data sharing ‘hub’ described in this report would make important strides towards ensuring that prescribers and pharmacists have a full picture of an individual’s controlled substance use and are able to make more informed decisions for their patients,” says Joel White, executive director of Health IT Now.

Also See: Commission calls for integrated data environment to combat opioid crisis

Today, PDMPs generally are not interoperable with state agencies or electronic health records systems, or even with other PDMPs, White notes. Further, pharmacy information generally is not available in real-time—a pharmacist may batch a file of prescription history information and send it to a state database, but it can take considerable time to get the information filed in the database, and that can affect the ability to understand a patient’s medication history.

Sending data to the state and then waiting to access that data “adds time to the transaction and represents another burden in the process that could be automated,” according to White. “When an action like checking for substance abuse or other red flags such as paying in cash or having multiple prescribers is easier to do, people tend to do it more often.”

Generally, these checks are difficult to do in pharmacy information systems and the information received may not be accurate. “We need to make prescription drug monitoring programs easier to use,” White asserts. “PDMPs have been around for decades—we need interoperability, real-time information and good workflow. We need a data hub to link databases and allow real-time checks against the databases. At the end of the day, you want tools that are easy to use.”

Health IT Now also advocates changes to a decades-old law known as 42 CFR Part 2, which separates substance abuse information from other medication history, which can result in a prescriber or pharmacist not knowing the full medication history of a patient.

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