Friday, November 14, 2014

Director who oversaw K-TRACS tech switch steps down for health reasons

By Andy Marso
KHI News Service

TOPEKA, KAN. — The man who shepherded Kansas' prescription drug tracking program through a software upgrade is resigning after a little more than a year on the job.

Marty Singleton, director of the Kansas Tracking and Reporting of Controlled Substances system, or K-TRACS, said Wednesday in a phone interview that he is stepping down due to "personal health issues."

“I met with my doctor," Singleton said. "Been down this road before, and it’s better just to nip it in the bud.”

Singleton, who did not elaborate, announced his resignation to friends and Kansas Board of Pharmacy members in an email sent 8 a.m. Monday.

Debra Billingsley, executive director of the Kansas Board of Pharmacy, did not return a message seeking comment. An attorney for the board said via email he had advised against commenting on Singleton's resignation because it is a personnel matter.

Singleton took over K-TRACS in October 2013, replacing Christina Morris, who left for a job with Cerner.

Singleton previously was a regional director based in Manhattan for the Kansas Department for Children and Families.

An electrical engineering graduate, he was hired in part to aid the pharmacy tracking agency through a first-of-its-kind software switch. Kansas was a test case for the new tracking program, provided free by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

Pete Stern, CEO of the Kansas Independent Pharmacy Service Corporation, said there were "a few hiccups" in the initial rollout of the new program. But he said they were quickly fixed, and it's serving its purpose of allowing physicians and pharmacists to track prescriptions and discover patterns that suggest possible abuse.

“If you compare our program to others across the nation, I think we’re moving forward very well,” Stern said.

Singleton said Stern's assessment was fair and that Appriss, the software's developer, had "done a good job of getting up to speed" on problems.

The result, Singleton said, is a program the state can be proud of and that physicians and pharmacists have told him is easy to use.

“That’s really what you’re looking for," he said. "You want more people to use it, you want them to be satisfied with it. The ultimate goal is to improve patient care.”

Singleton said he and his team had accomplished the goals he set when hired a little more than a year ago.

David Schoech, a member of the Kansas Board of Pharmacy, said Singleton will be difficult to replace. The board has not yet set a timeline for doing so.

“He picked up a difficult situation and did real well with it," Schoech said. "I really hate to see him go.”