Inslee signs bill increasing access to narcotic-prescription data for medical providers

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Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday signed into law a bill that makes it easier for medical providers and systems to use data from the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program, aiming to reduce inappropriate prescribing of painkillers.

It’s something medical providers statewide have been asking for over the past few years, as the existing framework of the monitoring program limits their ability to compare prescribing habits to others in their field and adjust accordingly.

House Bill 1427 also compels the state’s various disciplining authorities (the Medical Quality Assurance Commission for doctors, for example) to adopt rules establishing opioid prescribing requirements, with a deadline of Jan. 1, 2019.

The new law also creates an “overdose feedback” system, in which the state will now alert a patient’s physician if that patient overdoses and is taken to the emergency room in another part of the state.

If a Yakima patient overdoses in Seattle or Spokane, their primary care doctor or specialist will now be alerted and able to plan follow-up care or further intervention, said Katie Kolan, director of legislative and regulatory affairs at the state Medical Association.

The state’s Prescription Monitoring Program started collecting data from narcotic-dispensing pharmacies in 2011. Medical providers and health care organizations can access the data to check if patients have been filling multiple prescriptions for opioid painkillers at different locations, to crack down on patients amassing hundreds of pills at a time.

But Kolan said doctors have struggled with the interface of the program and haven’t been able to use the data in a big-picture way, to examine their own prescribing practices and compare them to other prescribers in the same field.

“We know that prescribers who use PMP data have appropriate and better prescribing habits,” she said. The goal of the legislation was, “Let’s get this out to all doctors, so they can understand their individual prescribing habits.”

With HB 1427, the Department of Health will start sending quarterly reports to health care facilities and provider groups that show their providers’ prescribing patterns.

The reports will include only indirect patient identifiers and are meant to be used “only for internal quality

improvement and prescriber quality improvement feedback purposes,” and not as the sole basis for punishing staff, the bill summary says.

The data will show individual providers’ prescribing habits and those of a medical team or specialty, so Yakima’s Orthopedics Northwest, for example, could see how its prescriptions line up with other orthopedic clinics in the state.

Having the data will tap into physicians’ natural competitiveness, Kolan said, encouraging them to work to match their peers’ patterns if they find them better than their own. Within the Medical Association, she said, doctors have been asking for the data in order to improve their practices.

Funding for the measure was included in both the state House and Senate budgets: $1.25 million and $1.39 million, respectively. Kolan said the Senate’s higher figure included some funding for the regulatory groups’ rule-making process.

The bill will go into effect 90 days after the session ends, though some sections relating to opioid treatment programs are dependent on the passage of other bills.

To read the bill in full, visit www.leg.wa.gov and look up HB 1427.