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April 5, 2016

Practitioners Now Required to Use Electronic Prescriptions

On March 27, 2016, the final piece of New York’s Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act (I-Stop) went into effect, making New York the first state to require practitioners to write and transmit all prescriptions electronically except in emergency situations and other limited circumstances.  This requirement, combined with earlier legislation implemented to track the use of controlled substances, is intended to curb the abuse of controlled substances, especially prescription opioid abuse.  Nonetheless, electronic prescriptions are mandatory for both controlled and non-controlled substances.  Prescribers who fail to comply with the law will be subject to serious consequences, including the potential loss of license, civil penalties and/or criminal charges.

This requirement builds upon the Prescription Monitoring Program Registry, implemented in 2013, which requires practitioners to consult the registry before writing a prescription for Schedule II, III or IV controlled substances.  The PMP Registry is intended to prevent patients from obtaining multiple prescriptions for controlled substances by visiting multiple doctors.  The electronic prescription requirement is intended to prevent the theft, forgery and improper use of prescription pads as well as cut down on errors made when pharmacists misread or misinterpret written prescriptions. In combination, the PMP Registry and electronic prescription requirement will limit the opportunities to improperly obtain controlled substances and will ensure that medications are dispensed correctly.  In addition, it will allow for the integration of prescription records directly into a patient’s electronic medical record.

There are limited exceptions to the electronic prescription requirement. In addition to specific waivers granted to practitioners who have applied for an exception, the NYS Commissioner of Health issued blanket waivers from the electronic prescription requirement in a dozen exceptional circumstances listed in his March 16, 2016 letter to practitioners. For practitioners meeting one of the twelve listed circumstances, the blanket waiver is effective until March 26, 2017, one year from the effective date of the mandatory electronic prescription regulations.  This blanket waiver is intended to permit additional time for practitioners and certain providers to find and implement functional software that complies with the electronic prescription requirement.

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