Surescripts announces improvements to and certification of e-prescribing system

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Nationwide e-prescription company Surescripts has announced significant improvements to its national e-prescribing network that will allow it to begin processing prescriptions of controlled substances in the near future.

The upgrades to the network were intended to provide electronic prescribing of controlled substances (EPCS) services to software developers and vendors. Surescripts announced that eligible EPCS manufacturers can now seek official approval from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) through Surescript’s new certification program. In turn, pharmacists across the U.S. have begun deployment of EPCS systems to serve the needs of their customers.

The announcement signifies an important step in the ongoing collaboration between software vendors, governmental organizations, pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers. According to Information Week, the DEA had voiced concerns regarding the security implications of prescribing controlled substances, such as opiate-based painkillers, electronically. Surescripts’ additional network improvements comply fully with FDA regulations.

An interim regulation enforced by the DEA mandates that any organization handling EPCS must adhere to and demonstrate compliance with three security protocols. Beyond password identification, e-prescribing vendors and eligible pharmacies must register their details with the National Institute for Standards and Technology, and use DEA-approved applications for interfacing with EPCS vendors such as Surescripts.

According to the news outlet, healthcare facilities and pharmacists have been slow to adopt ECPS systems. The technology has been in place for more than 18 months, but many pharmacies have chosen to rely on traditional means of prescribing controlled substances due to the lengthy procedures and financial investment involved with EPCS certification. Thanks to a waiver granted by the DEA, a pilot program operating in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, has been in operation since September 2009, but implementation of EPCS systems has been widely ignored elsewhere.