With Americans consuming roughly 80 percent of the world’s opioid supply – and a correlating death toll that has approximately 142 citizens dying every day from a drug overdose – it’s no wonder that America’s opioid epidemic has risen to the status of a national emergency. Here, we’ve rounded up five blogs that dive into this crisis and what the health care industry can do about it.
Kashif Rathore, Vice President of Interoperability at Cerner, @k_rathore
President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis has thrust the issue at the forefront of recent news, but it’s been a concern on Capitol Hill for some time. In 2012, Congress passed legislation that required the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop and report to Congress, with recommendations that enhance interoperability standards for interstate exchange of Prescription Drug Monitoring Program information. In accordance with state laws, PDMPs monitor controlled substances that have been defined by federal and state controlled substances laws.
With the opioid epidemic, Congress has been working to approve bills that will help tackle the issue.
In this blog, Kashif reviews several recent bills that could impact the way clinicians use PDMPs to combat the opioid crisis.
“State-level interventions create a system of checks and balances that prevent small problems from turning into larger ones, like opioid addiction,” Kashif writes. “As a result, PDMPs play an important role in regulating controlled substances.”
Anne Elixhauser, Senior Research Scientist at AHRQ, @AHRQNews
It would be difficult to tackle the opioid epidemic without understanding the magnitude of the issue –including what specific subgroups of the general population are at a higher risk. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) provides exactly this kind of data on opioid hospitalizations and ED visits, allowing the United States Department of Health and Human Services – as well as government officials and policymakers – to get an in-depth understanding of where the opioid crisis is hitting the hardest.
In this blog, Anne Elixhauser delivers some sobering statistics about opioid abuse and its toll on our national population, as well as how this data can be used to measure the effectiveness of opioid addiction treatment and reduction efforts.
“Learning about data trends to help improve lives can mean swimming through very scary waters,” Anne writes, “[but the AHRQ] will continue to play an important role monitoring the national and State data for opioid-related hospitalizations and ED visits.”
Dr. Chetak Patel, Department of Emergency Medicine at University of South Carolina - Palmetto Health Richland, @PalmettoHealth
The emergency department is a frequent entry point for drug-seekers, and physicians struggle with knowing for certain whether an individual truly needs pain medication or if they are abusing drugs. Integrating PDMP data into the clinical workflow can help streamline the decision and prescription process.
In this blog, Dr. Chetak Patel from Palmetto Health’s Department of Emergency Medicine discusses the value that PDMP electronic databases can bring to the table when clinicians are considering prescribing medication to ER patients.
“We need to do our part as emergent providers and remove ourselves from the equation,” he writes. "If we as an industry do our part and get ahead of the epidemic, we can decrease and possibly eliminate unintentional prescribed-opioid overdoses and help save lives.”
Kayla Matthews, Productivity Theory, @ProductiTheory
As the opioid epidemic continues to spread across the nation, the health care industry is looking for solutions to help combat the crisis and curb the rising death toll. One of the best solutions might be the most obvious: the electronic health record (EHR). Clinicians can use the detailed patient data stored in the EHR to avoid over-prescribing certain medications. This requires a transparency of care across the continuum, since any gaps in the patient’s EHR could lead the prescribing clinician to the wrong decision, but there is a strong case to be made for the combined power of the EHR with a state’s PDMP.
“EHRs are one of the most vital tools for providing accurate and efficient care for patients across the country,” Kayla writes. “If used correctly, they could also be the most important weapons in our fight against opioid substance abuse.”
Tripp Jennings, Chief Value and Informatics Officer at Palmetto Health, @trippjennings
The opioid epidemic is not a cut-and-dry issue. There are many challenges to be considered – including the institutional barriers layered into the health care system and underlying behavioral health issues that often present in patients struggling with opioid abuse.
Though not technically a blog post, Tripp Jennings, chief value and informatics officer at Palmetto Health, offers his insights on this subject in a recent episode of The Cerner Podcast. Listen below as Tripp takes a closer look at addiction, the economic impact and what health care providers can do to prevent this upward trend.
“This is really affecting us throughout the day in the emergency department,” Tripp says. “It’s really turned into a national epidemic, but we had to recognize [the problem] first, and I think we’re finally at that point.”