Starting July 1, a legal change will permit you to report INSPECT patients to law enforcement, with legal protection when you do so
The Indiana Scheduled Prescription Electronic Collection and Tracking program (INSPECT), a Web-based system that tracks all schedule II through V controlled substances dispensed in the state, has been a useful tool for physicians.
INSPECT has also raised many questions from physicians, mainly: What do I do with the information once I get it?
Recent changes to the law affecting INSPECT will provide a better answer to that question. The change states, effective July 1, 2010, “A practitioner who in good faith discloses information based on a report from the INSPECT program to a law enforcement agency is immune from criminal or civil liability.”
While you will still not be required to use INSPECT or report information from it to anyone, you will now be permitted to report information to law enforcement and will be legally protected for doing so.
However, Julie Reed, ISMA legal counsel, noted, “The new law only allows disclosure of information based on an INSPECT report. Any other disclosure to law enforcement will likely still require a subpoena.”
The INSPECT database serves as an online tool to help physicians with treating their patients. The database has always been available to law enforcement and state officials.
A 2007 change initiated by the ISMA made it available to doctors and other health care providers. While never required to use INSPECT, physicians are immune from civil liability for an injury, death or loss to a person solely due to their seeking or not seeking information from the database.
Today, you can register and then search your patient's controlled substance history before making treatment decisions. It’s all free.
“Of course, the data cannot be used inappropriately,” noted Reed. “Specifically, it can only be used for providing medical treatment or evaluating the need for providing medical treatment to a patient.”
In recent years, when physicians have asked if they can or should report patients whose INSPECT reports indicate abuse, like doctor shopping or diversion, the answer – to the dismay of law enforcement – has been they should not. That’s because the cornerstone of the physician-patient relationship is confidentiality.
“A treating physician has always been able to share patient information with another treating physician for treatment purposes without patient consent. However, doctors cannot share patient information with physicians who do not have a treatment relationship with that patient or with non-physicians,” Reed explained.
Thus, unless a law requires a disclosure, permits disclosure (paired with immunity), or the patient consents, you must protect the patient’s information. With INSPECT, the new disclosure option will exist starting July 1.
Call ISMA’s legal department if you have any questions.