What Is EPCS & Does My Practice Need It?
Posted by Janna Vienca Cañezal
The United States has seen an overwhelming increase in opioid overdose deaths due to the misuse of prescription opioids in the last two decades. In 2010, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) established the Electronic Prescription for Controlled Substance (EPCS) rule as a way to eliminate the issues created by paper prescriptions, curb the dangerous practice of “doctor shopping,” and eventually, help battle the opioid crisis.
Finally, in 2017, the opioid epidemic was formally declared a public health emergency, and more states began embracing EPCS. The opioid epidemic is a complex problem but gaining better control of prescribing and dispensing controlled substances is a step towards a solution.
What Is EPCS?
Electronic Prescribing of Controlled Substances, or EPCS, is a secure way to transmit electronic prescriptions for a controlled substance to a pharmacy. It adds an OTP (one-time-password) system into the prescribing process for additional security and permits pharmacies to receive, dispense, and archive these prescriptions electronically.
As the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act of 2018 took effect, 2021 marked a significant milestone for EPCS. Starting January 1, 2021, CMS began requiring providers to use EPCS to prescribe all controlled substances covered under Medicare Part D. Additionally, several state mandates are taking effect through 2022.
Should My Practice Get EPCS?
EPCS has been an enormous help in fighting the opioid epidemic. It enables providers to play an essential role in decreasing prescription fraud and opioid abuse. More than that, it provides several other benefits to both providers and patients.
1. Increases E-Prescribing Workflow Efficiency
Writing paper prescriptions takes up a lot of the patient-provider time. On the other hand, e-prescribing only takes a few clicks, and the prescription transmits to the pharmacy within seconds. It saves your staff valuable time from pharmacy call-backs clarifying ineligible paper prescriptions and reduces patient wait time when picking up prescriptions.
Today, providers are already using e-prescription for other drugs. Adding controlled substances in that same workflow eliminates the need to use multiple software systems and allows for centralized monitoring of all prescriptions.
2. Improves Patient Safety
EPCS promotes patient safety through drug-to-drug and drug-allergy interaction checks. It allows you to check for patient conditions, such as pregnancy and geriatric concerns, before e-prescribing. Additionally, the ability to view the patient’s medication history prevents over-prescribing, minimizing the risk for drug abuse.
E-prescribing controlled substances reduces prescription errors brought about by ineligible handwriting, reducing the confusion and hesitation pharmacies experience every day. Prescribers can then fill out the drug’s dose, strength, route, and frequency, confident that they are releasing the correct medication and accurate dosage to the patient.
3. Increases Security and Reduces Fraud and Doctor Shopping
EPCS reduces fraud by eliminating paper prescriptions that can be tampered with, lost, or stolen. It assures pharmacists that the prescription they received is exactly what the provider ordered. Additionally, since the pharmacy directly receives e-prescriptions, a provider’s DEA number is not exposed to the patient or other parties, eliminating the opportunity for fraud.
Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP) pair with EPCS to prevent “doctor shopping.” It allows providers to view a patient’s controlled substance prescriptions from other providers and what prescriptions were filled in pharmacies. In some states, like New York, providers must consult the state’s PDMP before prescribing controlled substances.
4. Tracks Medication Adherence
With paper prescriptions, there is no effective way to track whether the patient filled the prescription. Patients often lose the paper prescription or prematurely stop their medication once they start to feel better. EPCS helps providers verify if patients filled their prescriptions and helps monitor medication adherence.
Providers can also gain insight into how often patients fill their prescriptions for controlled substances, making it easier to recognize potential drug abuse.
5. Improves the Patient Experience
Your patients value their time. With handwritten prescriptions, patients need to drive to your clinic, pick up the paper prescription, and then drive to the pharmacy to get the medication. E-prescriptions eliminate all that. All you need to do is notify your patient, and they can go directly to the pharmacy to pick up the medication.
The efficiency and convenience of e-prescription reduce patient wait times and ultimately provide a better patient experience.
A One-Stop Shop for All Your Prescribing Needs
Compliance with federal regulations and state mandates can be confusing, so it’s essential to partner with the right team to walk you through the process and make sure you meet the requirements. What’s even better is to find an EHR that supports a complete EPCS workflow and is on top of regulatory compliance.
Meditab’s core EHR, the Intelligent Medical Software (IMS), provides a comprehensive suite of tools that automate your e-prescription workflow and eliminate tedious processes. From a secure way to send e-prescriptions and an integrated drug formulary to one-click access to your state’s PDMP, EPCS support, and more, IMS is everything your practice needs.