By: Gina L. Campanella, Esq., FACHE
In 2013, New York State passed an electronic prescription and prescription monitoring program law named I-STOP. The first phase of I-STOP was to develop an online prescription registry which tracks all controlled substances prescribed to any patient. Effective August 27, 2013, any physician, or provider with prescriptive authority (with the exception of veterinarians), must consult the New York Prescription Monitoring Program (“PMP”) prior to issuing a prescription for any Schedule II, III or IV controlled substances. The only exception to this is a five (5) day supply of a controlled substance prescribed from a hospital emergency department. It is important to note that a five (5) day supply of a controlled substance prescribed from any other setting (private practice, surgery center, urgent care/clinic, dental office, etc.) requires PMP consultation. New York state does permit a physician or provider to have an authorized designee check the registry on the prescriber’s behalf; however, the designee must have his or her own Health Commerce System account to do so. Account access information cannot be shared or used by anyone other than the designated registrant.
The second phase of I-STOP will go into effect on March 27, 2016. This phase will not only require all prescriptions to be submitted electronically, effectively banning paper prescriptions, but it will also institute penalties for prescribers who do not comply. In order to issue electronic prescriptions, prescribers must have obtained and registered one of the approved, certified electronic prescribing systems. Any prescriber who has not yet done this will not make the deadline. The New York Department of Health will permit an application for a waiver under the circumstances detailed on their web site: http://www.health.ny.gov/professionals/narcotic/electronic_prescribing/waiver.htm. Waivers will only be granted for a temporary period, not to exceed one (1) year, and will generally be based upon factors such as economic hardship, technological limitations which the prescriber cannot control and any other exceptional circumstance which must be demonstrated by the prescriber seeking the waiver. The mandate for electronic prescribing, in addition to effectively banning paper prescriptions, will also effectively ban oral prescribing (for example, via telephone) unless (i) there is a temporary technical or power failure, (ii) the prescriber has a waiver, (iii) the prescriber is out of state, or (iv) the prescriber determines that electronic prescribing would cause an unreasonable delay that would harm the patient, in which case the prescriber cannot prescribe more than a five (5) day supply if the prescription is for a controlled substance. New York’s Attorney General has indicated that the purpose of the shift to a system of entirely electronic prescribing is twofold: first, it will significantly curtail the illegal sale and transfer or paper prescriptions and second, it will reduce medication errors resulting from misinterpretation of handwriting and/or abbreviations on genuine prescriptions.