President Trump on Monday announced a wide-ranging policy initiative aimed at confronting the forces of supply and demand that are fueling the country’s opioid epidemic, including cutting nationwide opioid prescription fills by one-third within three years.

In an effort to reduce demand and over-prescription, the Stop Opioids Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand initiative calls for leveraging federal funding opportunities related to opioids to “ensure that states transition to a nationally interoperable Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) network.”

PDMPs are electronic databases that help states track controlled substance prescriptions by flagging suspicious patient prescribing activities. Last year, the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis called for more data sharing among state-run PDMPs, charging that these databases are being significantly underutilized in the vast majority of states.

“My administration agreed with all of the commission’s goals, and we’ve worked aggressively to put them into action,” said Trump during a speech in Manchester, N.H., where he outlined his plan, including getting PDMPs to interoperate and share data among bordering states. “We’re taking action to reduce drug demand by preventing Americans from becoming addicted in the first place.”

Donald Trump

Also See: EHRs need better integration with prescription drug monitoring programs

The President’s new initiative was applauded by Health IT Now, a coalition of patient groups, provider organizations, employers and payers, which launched the Opioid Safety Alliance in January—along with IBM, Intermountain Healthcare, McKesson, Oracle and Walgreens—to advance a HIT-centric policy agenda to combat the problem of opioids.

“Instead of tinkering around the edges with tweaks to our existing PDMP system, the White House’s opioid plan looks to be taking a bolder stance—embracing our proposal for a new, nationwide, interoperable prescription safety alert system that complements the role of PDMPs while addressing troubling blind spots in the current system to deliver real-time information to clinicians at the point of care,” said Joel White, executive director of HITN.

HITN’s Opioid Safety Alliance has called for a nationwide, interoperable prescription safety alert system—based on National Council of Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) standards—that would be run by the private sector under contract with the Department of Health and Human Services. NCPDP is an ANSI-accredited, standards development organization providing healthcare solutions.

“By heeding Health IT Now’s calls for a facilitator model based on NCPDP standards, this plan can empower clinicians with the tools to stop fraudulent controlled prescriptions before they reach the patient’s hands and to ultimately save more lives from the ravages of opioid misuse,” added White. “We thank President Trump for recognizing the promise of this breakthrough solution and look forward to our continued work with the administration, Congress, and others to get this plan across the finish line.”

For its part, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives earlier this month sent a letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Vermain response to the agency’s call for improvement activities under the Medicare Incentive-based Program (MIPS)—in which CHIME recommended that CMS offer credit for clinicians who consult a PDMP to determine whether a patient has been previously prescribed opioids.

In addition, CHIME noted that facilitating more use of electronic prescribing for controlled substances (EPCS) can also help combat the opioid epidemic. However, the group lamented the fact that there are low rates of EPCS adoption among providers.

“Some of the reasons more clinicians are not using EPCS involve complicated workflows where the EPCS solution is not well integrated with their EHR,” states the CHIME letter to CMS. “Further, EHRs and PDMPs are also not well-integrated.”

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