3 thoughts on e-prescriptions with Surescripts' Paul Uhrig

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Earlier this month, Connecticut lawmakers passed legislation requiring the use of electronic prescriptions. With other states — like Maine, which has an e-prescription law set to go into effect July 1 — moving toward similar mandates, Becker's Hospital Review spoke with Paul Uhrig, chief administrative, legal and privacy officer of Surescripts, about the legal outlook surrounding e-prescribing in the U.S.

Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Question: How is e-prescribing beneficial to healthcare providers?

Paul Uhrig:  There are a number of reasons why it has become prevalent —

you used to have patients where the pharmacist couldn't make out the writing — [so] there's a lot of safety and convenience on both sides. You have the convenience that the prescription goes to the pharmacy of [the patient's] choice. You have efficiency for the physician, too, because it's integrated into their medical system.

Q: What legal hurdles have you faced at Surescripts?

PU: When we first started Surescripts, e-prescribing was not legal in over half the states, so our first job was to get all the states aligned so it was even permissible. This is going back over 10 years. Now, almost three-quarters of all prescriptions are sent electronically.

Clinicians, pharmacists, they now exchange a lot of information related to the medication that has been processed. We have connected our nation's prescribers to our nation's pharmacies, including acute facilities as well. This is a very good way for that provider to know more about that patient. It also helps with the opioid [epidemic], as well, and to understand if that person is at risk for addiction.

Q: What does the current legal landscape look like for e-prescribing controlled substances?

PU: We spent many years working with the Drug Enforcement Agency to allow e-prescribe to be used for controlled substances, whereas they wanted e-prescribe to be even more controlled. We think [the prescribing of controlled substances] is going to help in the opioid epidemic as there will be less diversion.

What we are now beginning to see are states mandating e-prescribing for at least controlled substances. For example, a few years ago, New York started a law called I-STOP [which requires New York providers to electronically prescribe legend and controlled substances], and now we're beginning to see other states adopt or consider similar laws.

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