Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs: Are They Working?

Kevin Zacharoff

Prescription drug monitoring programs are a bit of an enigma.  Some practitioners are intimately aware of their existence and some are not.  Some aren’t clear on what their role is in managing patients with pain and others are. In the years from the end of the 90s to the late first decade of the 2,000s they started to gain traction and become more widespread. In 2014, 49 of the 50 states now at least have legislation to operationalize a prescription drug monitoring program.  The state of affairs though is very, very disparate.  Different states have different levels of technology, different states have different interfaces between them so some are much more cumbersome than others to use and in almost all cases the dissemination of information to healthcare providers about the role that they play in clinical practice has been lacking. The intention is good. The lack of uniformity is very bad.   It’s been clearly identified that interoperability of prescription drug monitoring programs is integral for the system to work. But since they’re state driven and state managed there’s no sharing of information from state to state.  Timeliness of data is also not where it should be. It’s not going to help the healthcare provider if the data they have access to is from six weeks ago.  Some states have data that is as recent as five minutes ago, but for the states that have data that’s six weeks old, not going to do a lot to solve the problem.

In the meantime, it’s incumbent on providers to know what their states require, what the prescription drug monitoring programs have to offer in terms of safe and effective treatment.  How they are supposed to document this information and whether or not they actually as the healthcare provider need to access it or whether or not they can actually designate someone else to do it for them, which takes a little bit of the burden off of them.

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