Here is what Trump's opioid declaration means for health IT

President Donald Trump declared the nation's opioid epidemic a public health emergency Thursday, meaning several changes at the state and federal level would be made to address the crisis.

Shortly after, Acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan issued a public health emergency declaration on the opioid crisis, creating additional avenues to address the epidemic.

Here is what the declarations mean for health IT.

1. The action allows for expanded access to telemedicine services. These include remote prescribing of medicine commonly used for substance abuse or mental health treatment. 

2. However, the Drug Enforcement Agency must first revise its regulations. The American Telemedicine Association has been urging the DEA to implement a "special registration" provision for telemedicine as an update to the Ryan Haight Act that would expand its use, thereby reducing barriers to addiction treatment.

"Three groups of patients will be primary beneficiaries of this important regulatory change: individuals with addictions, children with ADHD and veterans with PTSD. They are all commonly treated with a range of controlled substances which, until now, have not been able to be prescribed by telemedicine," ATA President Peter Yellowlees, MD, said.

3. Other groups, like the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, have suggested a change to 42 CFR Part 2 regulations, which have prevented providers from knowing critical, relevant information about a patient's past addiction.

4. ABHW also notes the importance of bills like the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act of 2017 (H.R. 3545), which ease privacy law requirements, and Jessie's Law (S.1850), which aims to help create EHR alerts for patients' history of drug addiction.

5. Health IT Now is calling for increased interoperability amongst states' prescription drug monitoring programs to increase prescribing pattern awareness amongst providers and prescribers.

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