Health IT Now Launches Opioid Safety Initiative

It’s hard to overstate the impact that the opioid crisis has had throughout the United States. According to the most recent available Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, more than 64,000 people died of opioid overdoses (either prescription drugs or heroin) in 2016. What’s more, each day approximately 115 Americans (or more, by some estimates) die of overdoses. With these statistics in mind, a coalition of health IT advocates, providers, patient groups, and health care organizations has come together to develop what it calls “a tech-centric policy agenda” for combating the opioid epidemic. As Fierce Healthcare first reported, Health IT Now announced in a recent blog post that it would be focusing its resources on ways to fight the misuse of opioids with its Opioid Safety Alliance. “This is a public health emergency, yes, but for the health IT community, it must also be a call to action,” Health IT Now Executive Director Joel White said in a blog post. “Opioid Safety Alliance members have coalesced around bold, actionable solutions that bring the full force of technology to bear in solving this crisis.”

Joining Health IT Now in the new initiative are a range of health care organizations, technology companies, and patient advocacy groups, including Intermountain Healthcare, IBM, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, among others. What are the group’s suggested reforms? At the heart is the expanded use of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), which the CDC defines as “state-run electronic databases used to track the prescribing and dispensing of controlled prescription drugs to patients,” as well as the upgrading of PDMP systems throughout the country. As the Health IT Now blog post explains, “Opioid Safety Alliance members call upon Congress to provide additional funding specifically for PDMP enhancements, including allowing interoperability across states.” Also on their list of reforms: better patient information sharing among clinicians and pharmacists, which “will also facilitate getting people with opioid abuse disorder the treatment help they need.” Similarly, they urge increased sharing of medical records, “including substance abuse history,” which is currently prohibited under federal law. Finally, they are advocating for innovative new addiction treatment options, including telemedicine, and the use of “emerging technologies.”

As we’ve reported in the past, PDMPs, particularly when integrated with electronic health records systems, can allow providers to hone in on patients who may be abusing prescription drugs. For prescribers and pharmacists, they can provide valuable information on the drugs that a patient has already been prescribed, as well as on the potential for drug abuse; having access to this information can also allow for early intervention with at-risk patients. In 2016, two Yale School of Medicine faculty members cited study results that showed providers changed prescribing habits once they had access to patient data from a PDMP.

Click here to read the Fierce Healthcare article on the Health IT Now-led opioid safety initiative.

Click here to read the Health IT Now blog post on their opioid safety initiative. 

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