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Recent Regulatory News

Information Regarding Electronic Prescribing Mandate - Jan. 1, 2021

Information from the Department of Health regarding the electronic prescribing mandate taking effect Jan. 1, 2021.

Please review the following ​information from the Department of Health:

During the 2019 Legislative Session the Legislature passed Substitute Senate Bill 5380. This bill amended RCW 69.50.312, which requires all prescriptions for controlled substances to be electronically communicated, beginning January 1, 2021. The bill also directed the Department of Health (Department) to create a waiver process for practitioners due to (in part) economic hardship, technological limitations, or other exceptional circumstances.

At the same time there is a federal requirement that will also be going into effect on January 1, 2021 that requires electronic prescribing for all controlled substances for any Medicare Part D providers. The federal language also directed the Secretary to create a waiver process, although there is no federal waiver to date. This waiver process will be separate from the Departments waiver, however as both progress, the federal language may ultimately impact how the Departments waiver is processed.

There are exceptions to this mandate, which include; 

  • Prescriptions issued by veterinarians, as that practice is defined in RCW 18.92.010;
  • Prescriptions issued for a patient of a long-term care facility as defined in RCW 18.64.011, or a hospice program as defined in RCW 18.64.011;
  • When the electronic system used for the communication of prescription information is unavailable due to a temporary technological or electronic failure;
  • Prescriptions issued that are intended for prescription fulfillment and dispensing outside Washington state;
  • When the prescriber and pharmacist are employed by the same entity, or employed by entities under common ownership or control;
  • Prescriptions issued for a drug that the United States Food and Drug Administration or the United States Drug Enforcement Administration requires to contain certain elements that are not able to be accomplished electronically;
  • Any controlled substance prescription that requires compounding as defined in RCW 18.64.011;
  • Prescriptions issued for the dispensing of a non-patient-specific prescription under a standing order, approved protocol for drug therapy, collaborative drug therapy agreement, in response to a public health emergency, or other circumstances allowed by statute or rule where a practitioner may issue a non-patient-specific prescription;
  • Prescriptions issued under a drug research protocol;
  • Prescriptions issued by a practitioner with the capability of electronic communication of prescription information under this section, when the practitioner reasonably determines it is impractical for the patient to obtain the electronically communicated prescription in a timely manner, and such delay would adversely impact the patient's medical condition; or
  • Prescriptions issued by a prescriber who has received a waiver from the department.

The Department will be creating the waiver process to establish the criteria for prescribers to receive a waiver from the Department to exempt them from complying with the electronic prescribing mandate which goes into effect on January 1, 2021. The waiver will be available for those who can demonstrate an inability to utilize an electronic prescribing system due to economic hardship, technological limitations that are not reasonably in the control of the practitioner, or other exceptional circumstance demonstrated by the practitioner.

The Department has heard of private companies implementing their own policies on electronic prescribing of controlled substances. This waiver would not automatically exempt a prescriber from a private company’s policy, although they may choose to accept it. 

Please look for future updates on the electronic prescribing mandate as the Department continues to work on creating the waiver.

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