WATCH: Will Mass. Prescription Registry Make A Dent In The Opioid Crisis?

August 23, 2016

Massachusetts has a new weapon in the ongoing fight against opioid abuse. The state has officially activated the online Mass. Prescription Awareness Tool—or MassPAT for short. The premise is simple: by sharing information about which of their patients are being prescribed painkillers, doctors can play a key role in preventing over-prescription and addiction. 

Mass. Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD (@MassDPH) and Mass. Medical Society President James Gessner, MD (@MassMedical) joined Adam Reilly to discuss whether this new tool could make a dent in the ongoing crisis.

All doctors are required to sign up for the prescription monitoring program, but for now participation is voluntary. Doctors in Massachusetts must check the prescription monitoring system, if they are prescribing an opioid for the first time. After October 15, the prescription monitoring system must be checked when any opioid is prescribed.

Comissioner Monica Bharel cites overprescription as a contributing factor to the current epidemic. She says, "Whether it's the individual's prescription or something that they received from a family member or a friend it often times is the starting point." She also explained that officials are looking very strongly at prevention and educating people on the risks associated with opioids.

Massachusetts was one of the first states to adopt a prescription management system. Bharel explains that the former program was a powerful clinical tool, but has been improved upon. Bharel says the new system is faster and more accessible. It also allows prescribers to look at a patient's medical record in surrounding states. James Gessner added that, "The data here is updated in real time." Gessner also explains organization of the new system has the advantage of streamlining data, as to not detract from clinical face time.

The new screening system will be a powerful tool in preventing doctor shopping, or when patients visit multiple doctors and are over prescribed. Doctors will be able to see any previous prescriptions of opioids and be better equipped to help patients struggling with addiction. "Now, it's an approach to a patient where you screen them for this disease and try and help them and get them into treatment," says Bharel. 

The new system will doctors determine the best treatment for an individual patients, but also speak to macro-level trends. Massachusetts officials are hoping use the data to gain insight into the epidemic across the state. Bharel says, "I'm trying to get us to use data more to make our decisions so we can connect that information to the other information we have about overdoses, look for patterns and try to together find a solution to this epidemic."

Gessener says that if doctors are following the rules for cases of acute or chronic pain, they will have nothing to be concerned about. He explains, "Our approach has been that this prescription monitoring tool is probably the best adjunct that we have to find appropriate use and potential misuse for prescription medications."

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