PMP: Screening Prospective Patients

Does your state allow physicians to use its Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) to screen prospective patients? Ambiguity plagues the law here in Washington State.

Your state’s PMP probably consists of a database of prescriptions for controlled substances, specifying prescribers, drugs, pharmacies, dates and amounts dispensed. If the PMP suggests in advance that we might not be a good fit, I can save myself and the prospective patient a wasted psychiatric evaluation.

In order to access the PMP here in WA I must agree to the following:

“Washington PDMP Certification Statement for Provider/Pharmacist...

“I understand that my use of this system is permitted only in connection with:

providing medical or pharmaceutical care for my patients...

“I understand that any other access or disclosure of PMP data is a violation of Washington law and may result in civil sanctions or disciplinary action...

I accept the above conditions”

But does the state’s definition of “my patient” include those who have just called for their first appointment ever? Soon after establishment of the database it occurred to me to use it to screen out patients I might not want to accept into my practice based on their patterns of use of controlled substances and their other prescribers. I contacte Chris Baumgartner who heads the program, and he assured me that such use falls within the intent of the law. However, more recently I asked “Gary” at the PMP the same question, and he contradicted Baumgartner. I suspect the same confusion exists in some other states.

Does your state allow you to access the PMP to screen out patients who do not fit your practice? Do you use it for that purpose? Must you meet a patient in person before you can call them “yours?”

I told the PMP that I will not accept new patients until they assure me in writing that I can screen patients with the PMP. I’m not holding my breath. What will you do?

Lawmakers should take care to eliminate ambiguity from statutes. Not only does failure to do so create potential for avoidable litigation, it also wastes prescriber time and interferes with optimal provision of medical care.


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