KHI News Service

Kansas wins grant to enhance prescription drug monitoring program

However K-TRACS still lacks funds to operate beyond end of the fiscal year

By Phil Cauthon | October 16, 2012

Kansas is one of nine states to be awarded a federal grant to improve its prescription drug monitoring program, according to officials from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

But the two-year, $450,000 grant cannot be used to fund daily operations, for which state officials still seek a long-term funding source, said Christina Morris, director of the program, which is called Kansas Tracking and Reporting of Controlled Substances, or K-TRACS.

K-TRACS allows doctors and pharmacists to log on to a website to review the prescription histories of patients. The system was launched about two years ago. Without it, officials say, it would be difficult for them to find out if a patient was abusing a drug by getting prescriptions from multiple pharmacies or doctors.

The grant was awarded for K-TRACS to implement three improvements:

1) Integrate drug monitoring data within the electronic health record system at Via Christi Health in Wichita.

2) Integrate the data within a large, chain pharmacy's system. Morris said a pharmacy partner had yet to be secured, but could be announced before the end of the month.

3) Integrate the data within Kansas' state-wide health information exchange.

"This is going to get the information into more providers' hands a lot quicker," Morris said. "Right now, they have to log in to our website separately, which takes time or isn't always possible. This will give the provider a red flag directly in their system saying they need to check out the patient and it will have all the K-TRACS data there for them to look at within their system."

Morris said that the plan is to integrate K-TRACS into the other systems in such a way that it can replicated with other hospitals and pharmacies in Kansas or other states.

"The goal is for this not just to be a pilot, but for it to be expandable," she said.

Dr. Joe Davison — who is on the K-TRACS advisory committee — said integrating drug monitoring directly into providers' existing systems would be important in increasing its effectiveness.

"Right there at the point of care, I can get that information without having to go out to another portal," said Davison, a Wichita doctor and chair of the board governing the Kansas Health Information Exchange.

"If someone has a problem with prescription drug abuse, the time to deal with it is at the point of care. You can say 'Hey, you've had this (prescription) filled by your dentist and by an orthopedic surgeon, you don't need another prescription. Is there something we should talk about," Davison said.

The other states receiving grants were: Indiana, Florida, Maine, Illinois, Washington, Texas, West Virginia and Ohio.

A primary purpose of prescription drug monitoring programs is to reduce what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called the “growing, deadly epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse.”<a name="continued"></a>

Prescription painkiller overdoses killed nearly 15,000 people in the United States in 2008, according to the agency. That was more than three times the number of people killed by the drugs in 1999.

Long-term funding still needed

K-TRACS began in early 2011 with a one-time, two-year, $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. Morris said about half the program's $300,000 annual budget is paid to the software vendor. The other half covers salaries for Morris and an assistant, rent and other bills.

Morris said current funding should keep K-TRACS operational through the end of the fiscal year — June 30, 2013.

She said several potential funding sources are being explored:

1) Fees collected from creating a state-based controlled substances registry. Kansas currently uses the federal registry, but Morris said other states have created their own to fund their monitoring programs. She said legislation would be required to create the registry.

2) Fees collected from users of the monitoring service, which also would require legislation, as current law authorizing K-TRACS explicitly forbids collecting fees.

3) A partnership with the Kansas Health Information Network, which is part of the state's health information exchange.

If additional long-term funding is not found, it's possible K-TRACS could be shut down before the new grant's goals could be accomplished, she said.

"It is possible, but I'm hoping to get some of this accomplished before the end of the fiscal year and be able to show some increased value in our system, which hopefully will help us in the pursuit of that long-term funding," Morris said.

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