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Health IT could curb prescription drug abuse, but adoption lags

Kenneth Corbin | June 12, 2015
WASHINGTON -- If health technology is ever going to achieve the goal of lowering the rates of prescription drug abuse, developers and policy makers will have to do more to encourage adoption of electronic prescribing systems among healthcare providers.

Justin Berhaupt, a former aide to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who helped draft the I Stop law, says his old boss wanted legislation that would offer "best practices" without dictating care, and, above all, would target abuse of the system and not "punish the sick."

"Almost immediately we found ourselves looking at how do we stop diversion. E-prescribing stops diversion," says Berhaupt, now counsel at the New York lobbying firm Malkin & Ross. "Paper prescriptions are stolen, they're forged, they're upticked. Changing a 3 to an 8 was something we saw time and time again."

But it's not just a matter of public policy. As with other health IT applications, developers and vendors have an operative role to play in driving the adoption of EPCS technologies by ensuring that various systems can communicate with one another across the landscape of prescribers, pharmacies and state monitoring systems.

Perhaps more importantly, Wilkins argues, developers must work with end users to ensure that those tools reduce the administrative burden, rather than add to it.

"I think the challenge and the opportunity is really around the interoperability and usability of these tools, and so interoperability really is exchange but it's also use," Wilkins says. "The standards exist. The technology is there. The need is there and there are people who want to use these tools. It's not very easy. When I say it's not easy, it's not integrated seamlessly within clinician workflow."


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