Drug databases suffer lack of funding, participation

There's a growing trend toward harnessing data to prevent prescription abuse--Texas is the latest state to adopt an online drug monitoring program that gives law enforcement and healthcare professionals access to a real-time database of dispensed controlled substances that includes statewide patient data going back one year, the Associated Press reported today. Until now, it could take days or more to access the data.

But some states have found that there's something standing in the way of these programs: Doctors.

In Mississippi, for example, an online prescription drug monitoring program can alert physicians when a patient is "doctor-shopping" or abusing medications. But more than two-thirds of physicians don't use the system, which is not mandatory, according to the Clarion-Ledger.

Other states are solving that problem with legislation requiring physicians to check state databases before writing prescriptions. In New York, for example, doctors have three years to get in line with a new law that will require them to issue electronic prescriptions for painkillers and to check patient records online before doing so. Pharmacists will have to report when they fill such prescriptions, as well. The state will create a real-time database to facilitate the changes.

Another stumbling block: Funding. California's state-wide drug monitoring program was hit by budget cuts and may run out of money by the end of the year, California Watch reports. The attorney general's office is working with healthcare agencies, grant funders and federal authorities to try to identify stable funding for the program.

Meanwhile, the feds also are looking into using health information technology to monitor prescription drug use. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT is running pilots in Indiana and Ohio to test the effects of expanding state programs, FierceHealthIT recently reported.

To learn more:
- read the Associated Press story
- read the Clarion-Ledger article
- check out the California Watch report

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