ONC initiative looks to curb prescription drug abuse

A new Standards & Interoperability Framework initiative launched today by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT aims to create a common technical standard to allow prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP) to share data with health IT tools used by providers for clinical decision support.

The initiative, described in a post to the Health IT Buzz blog, would be a boon to efforts to curb prescription drug abuse, writes Jennifer Frazier, a behavior health subject matter expert with ONC.

"Enhancing access to PDMP programs can't happen quickly enough, as clinicians across the country struggle to fight a growing national public health crisis," Frazier writes. "Opioid painkillers, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, are typically the most abused drugs. … When taken as prescribed, these medications are generally safe; but when misused or abused, they can be highly addictive--even deadly."

Other ONC projects have shown the benefits of enhancing clinician access to PDMPs, according to Frazier. For instance, a pilot conducted at Indianapolis-based community health system Wishard-Eskenazi Health resulted in emergency department staff gaining the ability to search the state's PDMP database, while also making such data available in patient electronic health records at the point of care.

"For patients who suffer from substance abuse, PDMP data helps doctors spot drug-seeking behavior," John Finnell, an emergency physician who participated in the pilot, said, according to the post. "It allows us to compare the prescribing record to the patient's story, because sometimes they don't match up."

Earlier this year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration made up to $3.4 million in data integration grants available to give healthcare providers better access to information in its PDMP. The grants are expected to improve access for hospital emergency departments, primary care practices and retail pharmacies to improve clinicians' workflow and increase use of the information to help them make better decisions.

And although most states have enacted such systems to crack down on prescription drug abuse, many states do not fully analyze or act upon all the data they collect, according to a study from Brandeis University's Heller School for Social Policy and Management. That paper focuses on effective strategies for using the data.

To learn more:
- read the Health IT Buzz post
- here's more info about the initiative