AUGUSTA - The Maine Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services announced today that it is moving patient certification for the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Program (MMMP) to the electronic age.
In an effort to reduce administrative duties and strengthen program integrity and security, medical providers who are licensed to certify patients for the MMMP will soon be required to complete the process using a new online tool. Following completion of the electronic certification process, the provider will retain a printed form for their records, and an identification card will immediately be provided to the patient by their certifying health care provider. This process will begin on January 5, 2015, and its use is mandatory. No other form of patient certification can be accepted by medical marijuana caregivers or dispensaries beyond January 5th. Certifications issued prior to January 5, 2015, are authorized until the expiration date of the certification. Training for health care providers issuing patient certifications is available during the month of December. For more information please go to the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana website: http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/dlrs/mmm/index.shtml
"No personally identifiable data will be captured or stored in this process," said Kenneth Albert, Director of the Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services. "The provider has a limited amount of time to enter the information and once the certificate and patient cards are printed, the electronic version of the information goes away. The process is simple, complies with all federal laws regarding the protection of healthcare information and removes the department's involvement in the relationship between the patient and their health care provider." Albert said the only information that will be retrieved from the electronic form is the patient's zip code, and whether the patient is over age 18. The collection of this information is required by the Maine State Legislature for annual reporting purposes.
Another benefit of this approach is that patient certification cards cannot be duplicated or reproduced fraudulently. Dispensaries and caregivers alike have reported that this has been a significant area of concern since the program's inception.
"The certifications and patient cards will be printed on specialized paper that contains a background image that will not reproduce when scanned or photocopied,'' said Albert. "This will eliminate the potential for a patient to replicate his or her card to gain access to additional amounts of marijuana at different dispensaries or through caregivers. The state will provide this paper to the medical providers at no cost to them." Previously, patients who wanted a wallet-sized card that demonstrated legal participation in the program had to voluntarily register with the state, which applications had to be processed manually. In the new program, cards will be produced as part of the medical provider certification process for every patient at the point of care. The patient will also receive a corresponding designation card' that he or she must give to the medical marijuana caregiver or dispensary where they choose to acquire medical marijuana. The Maine Medical Association (MMA) endorses this project, as does the medical marijuana dispensaries. "The Maine Medical Association is very supportive of the announced changes which will greatly assist those physicians who are interested in preparing a medical marijuana certificate,'' said Gordon Smith, Esq., Executive Vice President of the MMA. "The new system also provides for a more secure document reducing the opportunity for tampering."
Joseph Lusardi, Executive Director of Maine Organic Therapy said "We welcome any regulations that improve the integrity and consistency of the Maine medical marijuana program." The DLRS has been working with InforME to develop this technical solution, with a particular emphasis on patient confidentiality by ensuring that personally identifiable information is not captured and stored. The project's costs will be covered be the fees that are currently generated in the Maine Medical Marijuana Program. "This program is a win for all concerned," said Albert. "The State will be removed entirely from the patient and provider relationship. Patients can rest assured that they will receive identification cards at the point of care, and providers will find it easy to complete the online form. Caregivers and dispensaries will be able to trust that the patient has been properly certified, and the state can focus more energy on other areas of administrative need in the program, rather than the processing of applications for patient identification cards."