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Friday, June 5, 2015

Prescription Drug Tracking Systems

In the United States, efforts to combat prescription drug abuse have made it more difficult for addicts to “doctor shop,” the act of going to multiple doctors for the same types of drugs. Before the advent of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), it was quite simple for addicts to see multiple doctors in single day. PDMPs have practically eliminated the problem, with active programs in 49 states. Left with no other options prescription drug addicts started going to the emergency room to get their drugs. As a result, some states have developed prescription drug tracking systems for emergency rooms, NPR reports.

Hospitals emergency rooms have implemented tracking systems which flag potential abusers in New Mexico, Texas and Wyoming. The Cheyenne Regional Medical Center in Wyoming has removed the decision to prescribe painkillers to patients from the doctor on duty, according to the article. Monthly meetings are held by the hospital’s doctors and administrators to determine whether patients who are flagged for what appears to be unhealthy behavior will be designated as abusers.

Acquiring the label of abuser means two things: First, the individual's electronic medical records will host bold red letters indicating that the patient has been flagged. Second, the hospital will mail a certified letter to the identified abuser, the letter states that the hospital will no longer prescribe painkillers to them for anything other severe emergencies, the article reports.

A similar program in New Mexico not only reduced emergency room visits, it actually saved the hospital money. Dr. Eric Ketcham, who helped create the prescription drug tracking system at San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington, New Mexico, said that that ER visits dropped by 5 percent annually and the hospital saved about $500,000 a year because many people getting prescriptions lacked insurance.

"We assumed we would probably lose money," Ketcham says. "We thought of it as a public health initiative."

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