Massachusetts PMP Overhaul Underway

Changes Expected to Be Operational Mid-2016

BY BRENDAN ABEL, ESQ. 
MMS ASSISTANT COUNSEL

The prescription monitoring program — long regarded as clunky and unworkable, yet important — is scheduled to receive a long-overdue overhaul over the first half of 2016. The PMP, as it is called, is a web-based database that allows prescribers and pharmacists to look up past 12 months of prescription histories of their patients, with the intention of supporting safe prescribing and dispensing. The PMP allows physicians to know if similar or contraindicated medications are being prescribed by other Massachusetts prescribers.

Eleven Clicks

All physicians in Massachusetts are automatically enrolled in the PMP with their most recent renewal of their state controlled substance registration. Current laws require prescribers to check the PMP prior to issuing a prescription of a Schedule II or III narcotic or a benzodiazepine to a patient for the first time.

The Massachusetts PMP has been plagued by several shortcomings, including significant usability issues. Physicians often remark that it takes “11 clicks” to get from the opening screen to the information being sought. Data updates are often delayed, and the program fails to show prescriptions filled in the past weeks. The MMS has long advocated for improvements to the system to improve timeliness and reliability of the data, and to increase usability to allow for better integration into physicians’ clinical practice.

Some improvements have come in the past several weeks, and a significant overhaul of the system is expected over the next several months.

Resident Access

Prescription data in the PMP is now more up-to-date thanks to a legal change requiring the data to be uploaded by pharmacies every 24 hours rather than every seven days. And a few weeks ago, the Medical Society assisted the DPH in allowing all medical residents in the Commonwealth to gain access to the PMP.

The biggest changes to the PMP should be evident by this summer. The DPH has finalized an agreement with a new vendor, Appriss, to completely overhaul the system. The new $6.5 million system will be easier to navigate, have improved search capabilities, and will allow for integration into electronic health records. Since the new vendor currently runs the PMPs of 23 other states, the new system will also allow for queries into several nearby states. (However, at present, New Hampshire will not be part of the interstate search.) The new system will continue to allow for resident access and will allow for the easier addition of an unlimited number of nonprescriber delegates.

New System Improvements

The MMS has been invited to participate in key stakeholder meetings to monitor implementation and share physician concerns. The new system will have new user instructions and will require new profiles to be set, so we plan to work closely with the DPH to make the transition process as simple as possible.

The MMS looks forward to the new system and the improvements that it will present to physicians. The value of the PMP is clear, and the Society appreciates the investment to create a system that reflects our priority to protect the health and safety of patients.

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