NY e-prescribing law takes effect March 27, doctors now face fines for pen-and-paper

By Mike Miliard
11:49 AM
I-STOP legislation passed in 2012 to combat controlled substance abuse; New provision to begin this month requires physicians to prescribe almost everything electronically.
The New York State legislature building in Albany, New York.

Healthcare providers operating in New York state take note: Beginning March 27, physicians will be required to digitally transmit all prescriptions. 

Doctors can use either certified e-prescribing technology or electronic health records to perform the task, but those who continue to scribble on script pads will be penalized through fines or, potentially, prison. 

[Also: eRx of controlled substances now legal in 50 states]

The change comes about due to 2012 legislation known as the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act, or I-STOP, which requires electronic prescription of drugs classified as Schedule II, III, IV and V by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

While I-STOP's initial goal was to curb opioid abuse, this e-prescribing mandate is wider. 

By the end of March, "it will be mandatory for practitioners, excluding veterinarians, to issue electronic prescriptions for controlled and non-controlled substances," according to the New York State Department of Health.

Beyond the obvious problem of drug abuse, this larger goal for e-Rx is to improve patient safety generally by removing sloppy handwriting, and the chance for missed or inaccurate information, from the prescription process, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman told the New York Times.

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"Paper prescriptions had become a form of criminal currency that could be traded even more easily than the drugs themselves," Schneiderman said. "By moving to a system of e-prescribing, we can curb the incidence of these criminal acts and also reduce errors resulting from misinterpretation of handwriting on good-faith prescriptions."

The the DEA's regulations for EPCS are voluminous and detailed and their regulation process is intense, Cerner senior strategist Matt Moore told Healthcare IT News in 2013, not long after I-STOP was first passed.

But even then the EHR vendor, with help from security companies such as Imprivata, was working to make the process easier for its clients, perhaps predicting that this would become the norm in more states moving forward.

EPCS is "something a lot of our clients are interested in," Moore said. "Depending on who you ask, 20 percent of all prescriptions are for controlled substances."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN