Healthcare providers in Virginia will be able to access the state's prescription database round-the-clock, seven days a week, under a $400,000 expansion initiative announced by Democrat Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.
Physicians and pharmacists can only access a patient's prescription record during normal working hours to get recent treatment history of controlled substances. This enables them to determine if a patient is seeing more than one physician in an effort to obtain multiple prescriptions for controlled substances.
The federal grant will allow the Virginia Department of Health Professions, which operates the Prescription Monitoring Program, to provide 24/7 access to these records. The state hopes to implement the expansion of the database sometime this year, according to Sandra Whitley Ryals, director of the department.
"Twenty-four-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week access for authorized users of the program will significantly increase its effectiveness for healthcare workers in our emergency rooms, urgent-care centers and 24-hour pharmacies," said Ryals.
Physicians who work in emergency rooms and urgent clinics will "have access to the program while seeing the patients in real time," said Mike Jurgensen, senior vice president with the Medical Society of Virginia, in an interview.
Only authorized users can use the Prescription Monitoring Program to assist in deterring illegitimate use of prescription drugs. Prescribers must obtain written consent from the patient before submitting an inquiry.
The program, which started as a pilot project in southwest Virginia was expanded to the entire Commonwealth in 2005 to detect misuse of prescription drugs. Its database now holds over 14.6 million prescription records, and has logged nearly 11,000 requests for information so far this year. Of the 35,000 physicians in the state, about 800 are currently using the database.