The current COVID-19 crisis has resulted in a dramatic increase in remote patient visits conducted via teleconferencing or phone calls. Since paper scripts can no longer physically be handed to patients, providers have an immediate need for Electronic Prescribing of Controlled Substances (EPCS) to prescribe controlled substances.

DEA Exception on Electronic Prescribing of Controlled Substances via Telehealth Visits

Providers have always had the ability to prescribe controlled substances during telehealth visits. However, there are strict requirements around when and how a provider can prescribe. According to the Controlled Substance Act, a controlled substance can only be prescribed via telehealth if there is an in-person medical evaluation that happens first. The only exception to is when there is a public health emergency. When Health and Human Services issued the public health emergency on January 31, 2020 for Coronavirus, it allowed for the exception to take effect. The DEA issued clarification on March 18 acknowledging the exception.

“For as long as the Secretary’s designation of a public health emergency remains in effect, DEA-registered practitioners may issue prescriptions for controlled substances to patients for whom they have not conducted an in-person medical evaluation, provided all of the following conditions are met,” the agency clarified.

Conditions to Meet When Prescribing Controlled Substances via Telehealth:

  • The controlled substance is issued for legitimate purposes and by a provider acting in the usual course of practice.
  • The telehealth visit is conducted using an audio-visual, two-way interactive communication platform.
  • The provider is acting in accordance with applicable laws.

This exception has created an uptick in requests for EPCS solutions.

Adding EPCS Helps During the Pandemic and with Compliance in the Future

Even before the pandemic, EPCS was on the rise as part of a nationwide effort to curb opioid abuse. ePrescribing helps in reducing the instances of forgery, abuse, and misuse commonly seen with paper prescriptions. It also complies with DEA, state, and federal requirements. For patients, it assists providers in eliminating transcription errors and drug interactions while also helping identify patients that are doctor shopping.

12 states have already mandated the use of EPCS. There are currently 18 states with upcoming deadlines and six states with recently activated mandates. To see a full view of state EPCS deadlines, click below.

States with Upcoming Deadlines for EPCS

Adding EPCS to your practice today will not only help you with the Coronavirus outbreak, but it will also help you with upcoming or inevitable state mandates.