By: Deborah Aldridge, MSN, RN-BC, Senior Vice President and Kathy Smith, Ph.D., Chief Operating Officer
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an average of 130 people a day die from an opioid overdose. And according to addictions.com, prescribed medications, and not rampant thefts from pharmacies, account for nearly all overdose incidents caused by prescription pain medications. Of these medications, 80 percent are prescribed by primary care and internal medicine physicians.
To add to the statistics, a general survey by Ketchum Analytics found that 60 percent of Americans feel that physicians don’t know enough about how to help patients stop taking opioids, and 80 percent of physicians agree that there is a lack of education on the transition.
Most in healthcare agree that we have a significant epidemic on our hands and prescription opioids are the biggest offender, as seen in the statistics above.
As stronger and stronger regulations are being implemented and the level of concern continues to rise, the healthcare industry is developing multiple approaches to impact and alleviate the crisis.
These approaches include but are not limited to:
Pain management alternatives to opioids in the form of meditation, yoga, acupuncture, massage, mental exercises, and pain centers;
Improved check of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) and training for improved screening of patients;
A better understanding that the opioid crisis has changed the previous stereotyped face of addiction as a challenge of poverty;
Implementation of engagement strategies for greater success in linking an individual to treatment.
In a current project called Convert, Blaze is working with a hospital client to identify patients with a rising risk of opioid addiction. The key is to identify the challenge early, help patient recognize and understand the problem, engage with assessments and treatment, and link with clinically-appropriate services, whether outpatient behavioral health or detox services. The project seeks to alert providers when a patient enters the emergency room by triggering a flag alert within the EHR based on a number of factors, including prescription fill history. The primary focus is on those who have previously not been identified – those at rising risk. We are early in the project, but remain hopeful that we will achieve positive results.
The challenge presented by opioid use is extreme, but like everything else facing healthcare today, the answer with come with time, dedication and a community of caregivers and supporters who are committed to finding effective solutions.