Incompatibility Issues May Hurt Use of Calif.’s Upgraded Rx Database

June 24, 2015 in News

As California prepares to launch an upgraded version of its prescription drug monitoring database next week, some health care providers have said the new system will be incompatible with their computer networks, the Los Angeles Times‘ “PolitiCal” reports (Mason, “PolitiCal,” Los Angeles Times, 6/23).

Background

The state’s Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, or CURES, was established in 2009 to help physicians and law enforcement officers see patterns of over-prescribing by physicians or prescription drug-seeking behavior and shopping by patients. The database includes information on all controlled substances prescribed in the state and houses more than 100 million entries, according to the CURES website.  Providers who prescribe Schedule II through IV controlled substances are required to submit information to the database. The program receives more than 60,000 annual requests for review from physicians and pharmacists (Infantino, iHealthBeat, 3/5).

In 2013, lawmakers passed a state law to increase funding for the drug monitoring program after a Times investigation found the database was underused and underfunded.

The $3 million upgrade, called CURES 2.0, is set to launch July 1.

Details of Incompatibility Issues

However, the new database is incompatible with some Web browsers, rendering it unusable for some physicians, the Times reports.

Specifically, CURES 2.0 will not work with dated versions of Internet Explorer.

Some providers could update their browsers to use the new database, but some health systems have said the database will not work with their electronic health record systems, potentially requiring a larger technological fix.

According to the Times, health systems that could be affected by the upgrade include:

  • Kaiser Permanente; and
  • Sutter Health.

Bill Gleeson, vice president of communications at Sutter, said, “Our intention is to make the necessary upgrades so that our providers can access the CURES database.”

In a memo sent last week to its members, the California Medical Association said that if the California Department of Justice “does not change their implementation plan, a minimum of thousands of physicians will lose access to CURES.”

State Says Providers Have Been Notified

David Beltran, a spokesperson for state Attorney General Kamala Harris (D), said that physicians have been warned about the problem and were given enough time to update their systems.

He said the state DOJ “notified physicians months ago that accessing CURES 2.0 would require an up-to-date browser, which is critical to ensuring the highest protection of patient information.”

According to the Times, the state DOJ will continue operating the older version of the database for those who cannot access the upgraded version (“PolitiCal,” Los Angeles Times, 6/23).

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