Whether Nebraska’s residents live in the bustling city of Omaha or in rural farm towns and villages, the state now has list of every prescription drug sent or ordered.
At the start of the year, the state’s prescription drug database began tracking every prescription drug that has been dispensed to a patient with a Nebraska address. The data collection effort is the first of its kind, according to Live Well Nebraska, and is designed to fight drug addiction and help health care providers know exactly what patients have been prescribed.
The database comes from a partnership between the state and a health care data nonprofit called the Nebraska Health Information Initiative (NEHII) and DrFirst, a medical records software company.
Currently, the database contains more than 3.9 million dispensed prescriptions and has been growing at a rate of roughly 110,000 prescription records per day, a tenfold increase over the previous year.
The state’s heightened tracking expands the reach of its Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) and is hoped to be a potentially life-saving resource. In the emergency room, doctors can use the system to help patients that forget their exact medications and correct dosages. The new data is also supposed to put a magnifying glass over the opioid epidemic, identifying pharmacists and doctors that overprescribe and addicts that are abusing medications.
Another benefit to the data is greater guidance for doctors that are writing new prescriptions for patients. The wrong combination of pills could create a harmful or even deadly prescription for patients and the system can alert health care providers about conflicting medications.
The PDMP database had previously only logged drugs commonly associated with overdoses like pain pills, such as Oxycodone to Xanax, and anti-anxiety medications.
Despite the benefits to doctors and patients, critics say that there are potential improvements that can be made, according to Live Well Nebraska. Some fear that the transparency could be detrimental to patient privacy rights since any doctor with a computer can learn where any medication are being sent.