How Know-how Can Assist Fight The Opioid Epidemic

CEO of Bamboo Well being. Over 20 years of healthcare/tech expertise with management roles at McKinsey and Firm, Anthem, and Healthways.

The newest information from the U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention’s (CDC) Nationwide Heart for Well being Statistics are a grim reminder that the continued opioid epidemic has been worsened by the pandemic.

A document of 100,306 drug overdose deaths occurred from April 2020 to April 2021, in accordance with the provisional federal report. That’s up an alarming 28.5% from the prior 12-month interval. Opioids accounted for the biggest variety of overdose fatalities, the CDC stated.

That already excessive drug overdoses elevated throughout a world public well being disaster hardly is a shock. Covid-19 has disrupted economies all over the world. A rising variety of Individuals dealing with monetary, household and psychological well being challenges are turning to medication to deal with their stress. Newly launched findings from the 2020 Nationwide Survey on Drug Use and Well being discovered virtually 11 million individuals who used medication aside from alcohol reported utilizing these substances “slightly extra or far more” than they did earlier than the Covid-19 pandemic started.

Too typically this leads to opioid misuse that may depart a path of destruction and heartbreak. As Regina LaBelle, performing director of the Govt Workplace of the President Workplace of Nationwide Drug Management Coverage, stated upon the discharge of the most recent overdose information, “You will need to keep in mind that behind these devastating numbers are households, buddies, and group members who’re grieving the lack of family members.”

Sadly, the opioid epidemic isn’t going to abate quickly. The financial and emotional impacts of the pandemic probably will linger for years, as assist and remedy companies battle to satisfy demand and even keep open.

A Nationwide Council for Psychological Wellbeing survey taken in February 2021 exhibits that 63% of member organizations providing substance use remedy reported elevated demand for his or her group’s companies over the earlier three months, at the same time as 40% stated they could run out of funds inside a 12 months. Whereas the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 will present billions towards psychological well being and substance misuse, the demand is nice.

With a renewed focus and devoted funds, we should reply with a coordinated technique involving federal and state governments, healthcare suppliers and payers, behavioral well being professionals and expertise options.

Care Coordination And Interoperability

Care coordination instruments and interoperability is the primary class of applied sciences that should be harnessed towards opioid and drug habit. Lengthy an issue in healthcare, interoperability is crucial to care coordination as a result of it allows suppliers and different healthcare stakeholders to share affected person information earlier than, throughout and after affected person encounters.

Since many sufferers being handled for substance use dysfunction (SUD) profit from a powerful assist system, a team-based strategy through which information could be securely shared amongst clinicians, counselors and pharmacists might be extremely efficient.

As well as, care coordination expertise can enhance referrals amongst bodily and behavioral well being entities. If a affected person presents on the emergency division from an overdose, they could need assistance past their bodily wants. Know-how could make it simpler for suppliers to right away join the affected person to a behavioral healthcare crew to stop relapse and social companies assets to enhance whole-person care.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Applications

The second expertise to assist Individuals and forestall, educate and intervene in opioid misuse is a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) — an digital database that tracks managed substance prescriptions in a state. PDMPs permit suppliers and dispensers higher consciousness of latest treatment historical past to make extra knowledgeable prescribing choices to stop misuse and intervene when there’s a concern with extra assessments, conversations with the affected person and potential remedy. Past opioid misuse, PDMPs can forestall harmful drug interactions and assist educate sufferers concerning the prescriptions they take.

All states now have PDMPs and different registry instruments, however they don’t seem to be all the time absolutely utilized by clinicians and pharmacists. One option to enhance utilization and make PDMPs simpler is integration into the digital well being document to make it simpler and quicker to verify for each affected person.


A 3rd expertise that may assist with opioid abuse is telehealth. The Covid-19 pandemic normalized telehealth visits for tens of millions of Individuals and 1000’s of healthcare suppliers and payers. Whereas telehealth use has declined since its peak in April 2020, it has stabilized at a degree 38 occasions greater than earlier than the pandemic, with utilization charges starting from 13% to 17% throughout all specialties, in accordance with a McKinsey & Firm evaluation.

The demand for SUD companies is there, as is the willingness of healthcare customers to make use of telehealth. Certainly, McKinsey stories that substance use remedy (30%) is second solely to psychiatric companies (50%) in telehealth outpatient/workplace go to claims.

Telehealth companies for SUD could be notably crucial in areas with restricted companies, together with rural areas. Although many healthcare suppliers elevated their funding in telehealth expertise over the previous 12 months, remedy organizations usually lack budgets for expertise purchases. The White Home took an essential step to assist these organizations in August when it introduced $10.7 million in federal grants for state and regional networks of pediatric psychological well being care suppliers to combine telehealth companies into behavioral well being packages and SUD remedy.

The opposite manner federal and state governments can promote using telehealth for SUD is to make everlasting waivers on restrictions to telehealth companies declared in response to the Covid-19 Public Well being Emergency. Our mass experiment with telehealth throughout the pandemic has been proof that this expertise can profit suppliers and sufferers. There ought to be no turning again.


Whereas every of the above applied sciences can assist the opioid disaster, they’re much more efficient when mixed. When correctly built-in, the whole resolution permits clinicians consciousness of pressing and non-urgent bodily and behavioral well being wants and the instruments to successfully coordinate whole-person care.

Lengthy after the Covid-19 pandemic winds down, opioid misuse will stay with us, costing lives, shattering households and plaguing communities. We will decrease the injury by proactive public coverage, availability of reasonably priced remedy and deployment of applied sciences.

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