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By:  Karen E. Sosler, Esq.
Iseman, Cunningham, Riester & Hyde LLP
Albany/Poughkeepsie, New York

As of March 27, 2016, New York State will be the first state to mandate practitioners (excluding veterinarians) to issue electronic prescriptions for controlled and non-controlled substances. The new regulations require prescribers and pharmacists to implement secure (encrypted or encoded) systems for electronic transmissions, and computer applications must be in compliance with federal requirements and registered with the Department of Health, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement.

Although practitioners have had ample time to prepare for this new regulation, the New York Times has reported that as of January, only about 60 percent of the state’s 100,000 prescribers were able to send prescriptions electronically and half as many were set up for prescribing controlled substances, a process that requires additional steps for security.

Recognizing some of these issues, the state health commissioner announced on March 17, 2016, new exemptions to the mandate.  These exemptions include doctors who work in nursing homes or residential health care facilities that do not have appropriate software.  In addition, physicians who prescribe compound drugs with names too long to fit in the space provided in the software or prescriptions containing long and complicated directions are not required to use the electronic system.  Other exemptions apply as well.

E-prescribing is part of the 2013 I-Stop law, which was implemented to address opioid abuse by providing better tracking of prescriptions, reducing medication errors because of illegibility, and preventing abuse by tampering with paper prescriptions.

Providers who do not comply with the mandate will be subject to disciplinary actions, criminal and civil penalties, and fines.

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