AMA Backs e-Script Delay

A law outlawing hand-written and phoned-in prescriptions is due to take effect in NY March 17. The American Medical Association's president today wrote NY officials saying he agreed with the Medical Society of the State of New York that the measure should be delayed.

As the March 27 start date for law requiring prescribers in New York to go electronic, opponents got an assist from the American Medical Association (AMA).

In a letter to Howard A. Zucker, MD, JD the Acting Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health AMA president James L. Madara, MD asked Zucker to give physicians and others more time before the measure takes effect.

The law’s timetable is being opposed by the Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY) and a long list of NY chapters of medical specialty societies.

MSSNY supports the law’s intent, but wants at least a one-year delay in implementation.

In Madara’s letter he said the AMA agrees. “Specifically, we strongly recommend that you suspend enforcement of the law for at least one year until all of the operational, technical and patient care concerns are fully resolved,” he wrote.

“ We understand that the intent behind the mandate is to help provide a more secure, safer environment to prescribe, dispense and track controlled substances,” but, Madara added “The mandate, however, does not take into account the real disruption that will occur to patients if the mandate is allowed to go forward.

The state medical society cites a lack of necessary software and the need to find ways to change current prescribing practices at nursing homes and assisted living facilities without making it difficult for patients to continue to get their medications. In these facilities, nurses typically take phoned-in orders from offsite physicians and then relay them to pharmacies. That would no longer be legal under the new law, nor would any form of handwritten prescriptions.

Believed to be the first in the nation, the law expands on the state’s successful Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act, (I-STOP) law, one that requires physicians and pharmacists to check a patient’s prescription history before writing an order for a controlled substance.

The idea is to cut down on prescription errors and illegal drug diversion—a black market that includes antibiotics and other routinely prescribed medications.