Legislative news

NY doctors are now required to prescribe medicine electronically

Bye-bye, prescription pad: A new Empire State law aims to decrease fraud and prescription medication errors.


In New York, the days of writing a prescription, tearing it from the pad and handing it to a patient are over thanks to a mandate requiring all physicians to electronically prescribe controlled and noncontrolled medications. It took effect on March 27.

While some in the medical community may be resistant to the new law, its ultimate goal—patient safety—is what many health care professionals choose to focus on.

“Not only will the e-prescribing law help to identify potential drug abusers, but it can also help physicians see an overall picture of a patient’s medications, providing opportunities to look for contraindications and even dosage errors,” says Harold K. Sirota, DO, a family physician in Long Island.

Why the mandate?

The mandate, a component of the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing (I-STOP) that passed three years ago, is designed to reduce misuse of prescriptions and decrease errors resulting from handwritten scripts.

From 2013, I-STOP required physicians to check an online registry that lists all controlled substances prescribed to a patient; the new mandate is meant to further help physicians spot behaviors that could lead to abuse or show signs of abuse.

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Physician use of the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) Registry has risen significantly. For its first three years, the registry saw nearly 5,000 users total, according to the New York State Department of Health. After PMP use was required, the registry saw more than 100,000 visits between August 2013 and December 2015.

Pros and cons

Keith Servis, the director of the New York State Office of Professional Medical Conduct, reports that the increased use of the PMP resulted in an 85% reduction in the number of individuals seeking controlled substances from several practitioners.

Results like these are what physicians need to remember when they consider the new mandate, says Steven Sherman, DO, an ophthalmologist in Brooklyn and immediate past president of the New York State Osteopathic Medical Society.

“The purpose of this law is to look out for the patient’s welfare,” he says. “It’s certainly a good thing to be able to track a patient’s use of controlled substances and other medications.”

However, Dr. Sherman adds the mandate is not without some hiccups.

“We all have patients who compare the medication costs at pharmacies,” he explains. “When they find one offering a prescription at a lower cost, we can’t just transfer the prescription to the new pharmacy. The prescription has to be electronically submitted again, so that adds time to administrative tasks.”

Words of advice

Although e-prescribing is now the law, physicians can request a waiver for up to one year.

For physicians working to incorporate e-prescribing into their practice, Dr. Sirota shares these recommendations:

  • Research your choices by looking at multiple vendors. Schedule demonstrations with representatives or participate in webinars so you can determine which one will best suit your needs.
  • Consider having a medical scribe or physician assistant help you with inputting data if you are not a good typist or tech-savvy.

“There will be a learning curve,” adds Dr. Sirota. “Anything new takes time to perfect.”


  1. Jon Schriner DO

    Point one: for the most part we do this now. Doing controlled substance is good. But due to insurance ” mandates” and formularies we may use paper scrips so that patients can price shop to find the right, in their minds, match.
    Point two: the word mandate offends me as big brother. Not so much watching, yes, but dictating.

  2. Justin Hamlin, DO

    Yet another Big Government solution in search of a problem. This statute is anti patient and anti physician. This WILL do the opposite of what the proponents claim it will. The whole intention isn’t patient safety, it’s control over citizens, whom the government views as subjects and a revenue stream. If the AOA didn’t view is members the same way, they’d be strongly opposing it, instead of singing its praises and pushing the propaganda.

  3. Tracy

    Can someone please tell me, how often do I need to see the physician to prescribe me a controlled RX in NYS, such as ambien? My doctor used to have me regularly see her every 6 months. She has now left her practice and now the PA says every 3 months and it is televideo, with no other problems, I don’t see why??

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