State Health Agency Collaborations to Enhance and Leverage Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP) for Public Health Surveillance and Clinical Decision Making

Collaboration facilitates the use of PDMP data for epidemiologic studies and public health surveillance, which results in sustainable analyses and dissemination of actionable data that are now driving public health action in West Virginia.

Federal and state-level partnerships are key to addressing the overdose epidemic and opioid crisis. Through a CDC cooperative agreement called Prescription Drug Overdose-Prevention for States (PDO-PfS), the West Virginia Violence and Injury Prevention Program and the Board of Pharmacy were able to enhance and maximize the PDMP to increase surveillance efforts. (Read our new case study in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice.)

Key Takeaways:

  • Utilizing PDMPs is an effective strategy to address inappropriate prescribing behaviors, observe opioid and other controlled substance trends, and identify patients at risk of overdose.
  • Since many state health departments do not have direct access to the state’s PDMP, developing working relationships between health departments and their respective PDMP authority is important. In West Virginia, the Board of Pharmacy is the PDMP authority. Discussing and establishing goals between the two is vital before effective collaboration can happen. In West Virginia, the Violence and Injury Prevention Program and the Board of Pharmacy had many discussions to determine common goals and motivations. A key goal for the health department was to make the PDMP easier to use, both for clinicians but also for public health surveillance. As a result of these meetings, West Virginia was able to increase staffing capacity for the Board of Pharmacy to access and use PDMP data for surveillance and share findings to the health department. These Board of Pharmacy staff are embedded within the health department to allow for this quick and easy access to the data.
  • This collaborative effort also led to the integration of electronic health records (EHR) and PDMP data. This allows health care providers to access their patient’s prescription history instantly while viewing the medical records, which helps with clinical decision making and protects patients.
  • Another result of this state-level partnership is the integration of suspected non-fatal overdoses into the PDMP. West Virginia was the first state in the country to implement this and became a model for other states. This integration provides a notification for prescribers of their patients suspected non-fatal overdose. When a provider is looking up their patient’s prescription history, they will see this notification and be able to adapt their treatment and clinical decision making appropriately. Since not all prescribers utilize the PDMP before they prescribe, the Board of Pharmacy also implemented an automated email notification system for prescribers who wrote a prescription for any controlled substance within 60 days before their patient had a suspected non-fatal overdose. These notifications are not meant to be punitive in any way, but rather, to give them the information so they can make the best clinical decisions for their patient.

Read Our Article in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice:

Nathan Wood, MPH, is an epidemiologist for the Controlled Substance Monitoring Program at the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy. He oversees the data analytics team and ensures accurate data quality, analysis, and reporting to inform the states response to the opioid epidemic. He received his MPH from the University of Utah.

LCDR Jamie Mells, PhD, MS, is currently serving in the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Overdose Prevention as the Health Scientist Team Lead in the State Program and Implementation Branch.  He is a subject matter expert on prescription drug monitoring programs and evidence-based overdose prevention interventions.

Timothy Dotson, MS, is a Masters Graduate of Marshall University. He previously worked as an Epidemiologist for West Virginia Board of Pharmacy, and currently as a Health Geographer for the WV Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute whose mission is to address disease and health inequities in underserved states, like West Virginia.

James Jeffries, MS, is the current Title-V Maternal and Child Health Director for the State of West Virginia. Jim has more than 25 years of public health experience with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Public Health and was the Principal Investigator of the two CDC-funded prescription drug overdose projects.

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