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Doctors cite cumbersome process in explaining inconsistent use of drug monitoring data

March 3, 2015
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Most physicians are reporting only sporadic use of data from state-operated prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) designed to uncover problematic patterns of prescription drug use, and many are citing a lack of user friendliness in the systems as a reason for their lukewarm level of participation.

These findings were released March 2 in a physician survey funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Public Health Law Research program, with results published in Health Affairs. The survey of 420 randomly selected doctors found that 72% were aware of their state's PDMP (every state but Missouri now operates one), and 53% reported using the program. But the physicians who did use the data reported that they used the program for only around eight patients per month, even though they prescribed opioid medications for around 35 patients a month.

Many of the survey respondents reported that their state's PDMP data was not reported in an intuitive format, and that the process of accessing the information was time-consuming. Lainie Rutkow, PhD, a member of the research team and an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in a news release that beyond improving the user-friendliness of the data in the states, “...integrating the program data with electronic health information systems or even establishing a legislative mandate may help promote more consistent use by physicians.”

The researchers cited Kentucky as a model state in this regard; it has required physicians to register for and use its PDMP since 2012, and it has seen data requests increase by more than 300% since that time.

The physician survey found that among those who had used PDMP data, 74% said they believed it had led them to prescribe opioids less frequently.