When prescribing prescription opioids, physicians can manually query a state database to access a patient’s history of opioid use, a system designed to monitor and prevent the abuse of controlled substances and so-called “doctor shopping” by patients.

But the database run by the California Department of Justice doesn’t integrate a patient’s other health information, and it is often not easily available in emergency departments, critics say.

Legislation by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, seeks to make that information more easily available to doctors and pharmacists through an online Web portal or an approved health management software system that physicians use in a hospital, for example, to look up patient health records.

“We have clearly reached a national public health crisis with the overuse and abuse of prescription opioids, and many of California’s communities are being decimated by this problem,” Santiago said in a statement after the Assembly Business and Professions Committee approved his measure with a unanimous vote.

“This is an important step toward providing more seamless care for patients in the effort to prevent addiction,” he added.

AB 40 includes an urgency clause, meaning it must garner a two-thirds vote in the Assembly and the Senate. And, if signed into law, it would go into effect immediately.

The measure would require the department to create an electronic history of controlled substances that have been dispensed to an individual based on data contained in its prescription drug database known as the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, or CURES.

Specifically, the bill states that an outside health information technology system may also integrate and submit queries to the CURES database on either a user-initiated basis or an automated basis.

The California American College of Emergency Physicians, which sponsored the bill, submitted a statement to the committee noting that such an integration would make for more efficient care because doctors could access prescription information in the systems they currently use to access other patient information.

“This will help reduce stress on California’s overcrowded [emergency departments] by allowing emergency physicians to more efficiently treat patients, ensuring all patients receive timely care,” the organization said.

This story was originally published by Techwire.