Walmart Delays EPCS Mandate

Dec. 27, 2019
Retail pharmacy chain recognizes that not all provider networks, prescribers will have technology and systems in place to accommodate the requirement

After initially announcing that starting on Jan. 1, 2020, it would only accept electronic prescriptions for controlled substances (EPCS), Walmart has agreed to delay the change, which had been protested by the American Medical Association and other medical societies.

Recently, James Madara, M.D., the AMA’s CEO, wrote a letter to Thomas Van Gilder, M.D., Walmart’s chief medical and analytics officer, saying the requirement could “lead to considerable disruption in patient care given the fact that only about 44 percent of physicians currently have the technology, hardware and certifications required for EPCS.”

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT recently noted that although the percentage of clinicians who electronically prescribe controlled substances (EPCS) has increased, overall EPCS rates remain low. In 2017, 32 percent of office-based physicians who prescribed controlled substances did so electronically. That is one reason why the American Medical Association, the nation's largest physician organization, expressed concern when Walmart announced that starting Jan. 1, 2020, it would only accept electronic prescriptions for controlled substances.

In response to the AMA objection, Walmart officials shared with the newspaper USA Today that its pharmacies in Walmart and Sam's Club stores would continue accepting paper prescriptions. "We recognize not all provider networks and prescribers will have the technology and systems in place to accommodate this requirement, so we will continue to take written prescriptions so patients are not unintentionally negatively affected by this process," Walmart spokeswoman Marilee McInnis told the newspaper in a statement.

“The AMA welcomes Walmart’s decision to delay implementation of an electronic prescribing mandate that would have resulted in harm to millions of Americans, including many in rural areas who rely on Walmart as the only pharmacy in reasonable distance,” said AMA President Patrice A. Harris, M.D., in a statement.

Starting Jan. 1, six more states — Arizona, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Rhode Island — will require EPCS, although each state law has its own exceptions.