person using online pharmacy on phone

Enhancing Healthcare Security: The Crucial Role of Biometrics in EPCS Compliance

Electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) is transforming the healthcare industry by allowing clinicians to send prescriptions directly to pharmacies in digital form. This is more convenient for patients who no longer have to present a paper prescription and wait or return later to pick up medications. More importantly, it eliminates the risks associated with paper-based prescriptions, such as errors, illegible handwriting and misplacements. E-prescribing also reduces fraud by ensuring prescriptions are securely transmitted from clinicians to pharmacies directly without the risk of forgery or alteration. 

When it comes to controlled substances — there is always a high potential for abuse and addiction. Therefore, stringent regulations are in place to ensure the secure and legitimate use of electronic transmission of prescriptions for controlled substances. This is where biometric authentication and verification play a pivotal role in electronic prescribing for controlled substances (EPCS). 

EPCS + Biometrics: Fortifying the Administration Process

The EPCS regulations from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) were introduced in 2010 and have been enforced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) since 2023. EPCS not only facilitates the adoption of e-prescribing, but also establishes requirements for authentication, security and data integrity specifically for dispensing controlled substances.

EPCS requires multi-factor authentication (MFA) to verify the identity of healthcare providers every time they prescribe and refill a controlled substance electronically. In an age of expanding telehealth and cybercrime, this added layer of security prevents unauthorized access and protects patients from medication misuse. 

EPCS requires two of the following factors for identity authentication:

  • Knowledge Factor — Something you know, like a one-time code
  • Possession Factor — Something you have, like your mobile device
  • Biometric Factor — Something you are, captured by a fingerprint scan or facial recognition

This biometric authentication factor significantly strengthens the overall healthcare experience by providing physicians with fast, accurate identity verification as they e-prescribe. Biometric authentication ensures accountability as fingerprints or faces are unique and non-transferable — one’s traits cannot be easily lost, stolen or forgotten. 

badge with fingerprint and lock

The benefits of biometric authentication and verification in EPCS include: 

  • Unmatched Security  Biometrics provide the highest level of identity verification, minimizing the risk of unauthorized access to controlled substances
  • Streamlined Workflow  Log-ins are faster and more user-friendly than entering and managing passwords or tokens, saving time for busy healthcare professionals
  • Enhanced Accountability  Every biometric log-in creates a record with an audit trail, ensuring clear accountability for every prescription issued 
  • User Convenience  One scan of a finger or face makes countless log-ins fast and easy, eliminating password fatigue and enriching this repetitive process

Beyond EPCS: Broadening Biometric Use in Healthcare

Biometric technology is gaining traction within the healthcare industry beyond e-prescribing. This reliable technology can be applied to several use cases to support:

  • Patient Identification  Biometrics offer irrefutable proof of identity to ensure the right treatments for the right patient, whether on-site or via telehealth
  • Patient Check-Ins — For in-person check-ins, self-service kiosks provide fast, accurate and simple authentication — leveraging AI-powered facial recognition or fingerprint readers — to improve throughput, reduce wait times and elevate the patient experience
  • Single Sign-On (SSO) — SSO enables healthcare professionals to sign on once using their face or finger, granting them secure access across various applications throughout their shift and improving user productivity 

Biometric authentication and verification is a vital component of a secure and efficient healthcare system today. By contributing to strong, easy-to-use authentication for EPCS — and enhancing workflows across the board for pharmacies, physicians and practices — facial recognition and fingerprint technologies empower the healthcare community to deliver better care while protecting patients and the integrity of the system.

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