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3 ways you can help providers fight the opioid crisis

May 3, 2017

    As the opioid overdose epidemic worsens, providers are actively seeking new strategies to control inappropriate prescription of opioids. The new administration is also cracking down on the escalating opioid crisis, as President Trump recently assembled a "SWAT" team of influential corporate executives to tackle this top national issue.

    With 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers in 2015 alone, providers are under massive pressure to drive down opioid misuse and abuse.

    But they need help. Here are three ways vendors are uniquely poised to offer this assistance.

    1. Help impact clinician prescribing behavior

    Although opioids can be clinically appropriate for post-surgical patients, for other procedures, vendors can lend clinical decision support capabilities to help clinicians prescribe alternative pain management drugs, such as nerve blocks and analgesics.

    For example, many hospitals are working to design multi-modal care pathways that incorporate opioid alternatives such as acetaminophen, gabapentin, pregabalin, and even non-pharmacologic options in order to lower complication rates and length of stay. Clinical decision support tools can also recommend proper dosages and durations of opioid drugs, if alternative treatment options don't work. Manufacturers of opioid alternatives may find new, receptive audiences for their latest research studies in the clinicians and administrators tasked with developing such pain management pathways.

    Another way vendors can impact clinician prescribing behavior is by educating a range of clinicians—physicians, nursing staff, physician assistants—on the potential clinical and cost-saving advantages of non-opioid treatment.

    For example, Trinity Health and Pacira Pharmaceuticals have announced a partnership to drive down opioid utilization at Trinity's 93 hospitals, located in 22 states across the country. The partnership aims to identify specific patient populations that would benefit the most from opioid minimization and develop educational materials and training for replacing opioids after surgery. The clinician training modules will focus on appropriate prescribing and dosing, opioid alternatives, and effective administration techniques. In this way, vendors can establish themselves as reliable, long-term partners for health systems battling the opioid epidemic.

    2. Lend IT support to providers at different sites of care

    Vendors can offer their IT expertise to help providers better track patients' opioid prescriptions, especially across geographic locations and care settings. To detect drug abuse in a seamless manner, providers need help integrating statewide Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) data into EHRs. Vendors can solve this problem by developing interoperable and user-friendly IT platforms that allow various providers, whether physicians or pharmacists, to efficiently monitor opioid use of high-risk patients.

    There's also a rising need for robust opioid medication reconciliation efforts in the post-acute setting. Elderly patients with multiple chronic conditions are the most susceptible to medication errors since they frequently receive separate medication orders from their primary care physician, attending hospital physician, and attending post-acute facility physician. This disjointed process often leads to therapeutic duplication or adverse medication interactions. Vendors can partner with post-acute providers to implement IT-enabled medication reconciliation services and better examine patient medication lists during care transitions.

    3. Support opioid medication adherence programs

    Additionally, through telehealth platforms such as video conferencing and digital sensors, vendors can help rural providers consult with patients combating opioid addiction and improve medication adherence. For example, the federal government has set up the Distance Learning and Telemedicine initiative to improve access to critical care for opioid abuse in Appalachia and other rural communities. Through telemedicine, vendors can help physicians and mental health professionals provide personalized coaching and education to patients about the risks of non-adherence. This targeted effort can positively impact patient compliance and safety outcomes, making a dent in the still-rampant opioid epidemic.


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