As of the first of the year, Minnesota no longer has access to years of identifiable patient prescription data. Now, only one year of information is available, and one organization applauds the change and hopes other states follow suit.
"This is a great thing," cheers Twila Brase, president and co-founder of Citizens' Council for Health Freedom. Her organization has never supported state-based "mission creep" prescription monitoring systems.
"They started the whole thing out by saying that this is just a way for doctors to make sure that their patients weren't doctor shopping for controlled substances, but over time, they become available to law enforcement, to researchers," she explains. "They've been looked at for other kind of analytics, [and] different states have different things that they do with them, so it's become a really big database for uses that were never stated to legislators in the very beginning."
Every state has a prescription monitoring system, and 45 states allow their systems to look to some extent into the data of other states' prescription monitoring systems.
"This is all without patient consent," says Brase. "If states are going to have them in place, they should restrict it to only 12 months of data, and they should restrict the uses."
Brase would also like to see states do what Minnesota did in having quarterly audits of who accesses the information.
"With all these states being able to access the data on other patients in other states, we already know that they're snooping into records that they should not be snooping into, and the audits will help diminish that," she explains. "Individuals in clinics, individuals in administration and health plans -- all of those get access to the prescription monitoring system, but what we found is that once they left their job, whether they were fired or whether they just moved on to another employment, their access to the database was ... often not terminated."
But Minnesota's law requires these individuals' access to be terminated within three days of their employment being terminated.