Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has signed a bill that delays for one year mandated electronic prescribing, giving doctors, dentists and other prescribers a reprieve from a March 27 deadline.
Cuomo, who has had the bill on his desk since March 2, signed the measure yesterday afternoon -- the last of the 10-day period in which he could sign or veto the measure.
"This is a victory for patient safety," Dr. Andrew Kleinman, president of the Medical Society of the State of New York, said in a statement.
"The fact that many software companies are not ready for e-prescribing could have resulted in patients' inability to fill their prescriptions," Kleinman said.
Mandatory electronic prescribing is part of a larger measure known as I-STOP, or Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act, which was passed in 2012. Among the law's chief aims is reducing drug diversion and doctor shopping.
Stolen prescription pads have proved lucrative tools in the widespread prescription opioid drug trade. A single pad with only 50 slips can net $150,000 in prescription drugs, experts say.
Electronic prescribing systems must be certified by the state Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement and Kleinman told Newsday two weeks ago that some vendors were not yet certified. Extending the mandate to March 27, 2016, gives vendors time to get their systems fully approved.
Dennis Whalen, president of the Healthcare Association of New York State, added that prescribers fully support mandated e-prescribing but "software delivery delays and other challenges made it exceedingly clear many would not have been compliant absent an extension of the implementation date."
The delay gives doctors and other prescribers time to get their systems up and running. Over the past several weeks prescribers have complained that even with certified systems, there have been problems with the software, logging on and passwords.
"If prescribers and pharmacies in New York are going to be able to take full advantage of the breathing room afforded by Gov. Cuomo's decision, then we all must continue to work very diligently to prepare for this somewhat delayed, but still looming, legal mandate," said Ken Whittemore, a senior vice president with Surescripts, a company that runs the country's largest e-prescribing network.
Surescripts was instrumental in the yearslong push -- which began in the early 2000s -- to encourage e-prescribing over traditional paper prescriptions.
An additional aim of electronic prescribing, Kleinman said, has been the elimination of errors caused by illegible handwriting.
Once it takes effect, the law will apply to all prescribers, except veterinarians, who still may use traditional paper prescription pads.
All classes of medications -- not just controlled substances -- will have to be electronically prescribed, according to the law.