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Mandatory Electronic Prescribing for Controlled Substances (EPCS) Effective January 1, 2021

By Julie Loomis, RN, JD
Assistant Vice President of Risk Education, SVMIC

November, 2020


Most prescribers are aware of the upcoming requirement for Electronic Prescribing of Controlled Substances (EPCS) as mandated by the federal SUPPORT Act of 2018 and effective January 1, 2021. Primarily, this federal mandate affects Medicare Part D EPCS. In addition to the federal law, many states have new or existing EPCS laws (please see the table below). These are in line with the federal mandate but apply to all controlled substances regardless of payor.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) requirements for EPCS include two-factor authentication, which means prescribers who already issue electronic prescriptions, but whose systems are not EPCS certified, may need to work with their vendor to meet the DEA requirements. Prescribers without electronic health records or electronic prescribing capability can find standalone software, available at minimal to no cost, for EPCS to use with a computer, tablet or smartphone. SVMIC strongly encourages prescribers to take the appropriate steps now to ensure compliance with federal or state EPCS mandates. Failure to do so may result in penalties, including licensure board referral and fines. Although the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) EPCS mandate could be delayed, prescribers subject to state EPCS laws will be required to comply with such laws unless the prescriber meets licensure board exemptions or waivers.

Additional information regarding EPCS requirements and exemptions allowed can be found at the following links:

State Has state law applicable to all payors? Applicable Link
Alabama No Federal mandate only
Arkansas Yes - NEW! AR State Law
Georgia No Federal mandate only
Kentucky Yes - NEW KY State Law
Mississippi No Federal mandate only
North Carolina Yes NC State Law
Oklahoma Yes OK State Law
Tennessee Yes - NEW! TN State Law
Virginia Yes VA State Law

IMPORTANT UPDATE NOVEMBER 30, 2020

Tennessee has issued the waiver form for ECPS. A health care prescriber that is unable to comply with the electronic prescription requirement for a Schedule II, III, IV or V prior to January 1, 2021, may apply for a waiver from the requirement based on economic hardship or technological limitations that are not reasonably within the control of the health care prescriber or other exceptional circumstance demonstrated by the health care prescriber.

Download the waiver form here. 

About The Author

Julie Loomis is Assistant Vice President of Risk Education for SVMIC where she develops educational programs and assists policyholders and staff with risk management issues. Ms. Loomis is a member of the Tennessee Bar Association and American Society of Healthcare Risk Managers (ASHRM). She serves on the Risk Management/Patient Safety Committee of the Medical Professional Liability Association. Ms. Loomis is a speaker on risk management and professional liability topics at industry seminars, medical schools and residency programs.

The contents of The Sentinel are intended for educational/informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Policyholders are urged to consult with their personal attorney for legal advice, as specific legal requirements may vary from state to state and/or change over time.

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