Opioid epidemic: 7 key strategies in 2018
The first step to understanding the process of opioid addiction is realizing that it can affect anyone at any time. It’s pervasive and will require effort from multiple stakeholders to make progress. Some of the strategies we can use to address key issues in 2018 include:
1. Educate consumers
Early on in my career as a pharmacist, I found that people didn’t know what they were taking, or why they were taking it. The healthcare industry has a responsibility to educate patients to simplify once-complex topics.
2. Ensure safety of prescriptions in patient hands
When consumers are well-educated about contributing factors to opioid abuse, they can do more to make sure they are following directions and keeping prescriptions secure and in the right hands. For example, disposing of unused opioids in your medicine cabinet limits the risk that visitors or other members of the household might take pills not intended for their use.
3. Stay current with regulations
Policymakers are introducing new requirements to change the course of the opioid epidemic. For example, some states are requiring recertification of clinicians’ credentials to ensure they know how to prescribe medications to different age demographics. Clinicians should seek educational opportunities on these revised requirements.
4. Keep that human touch
Pharmacy school taught me to read people and not give a person with shaking hands and glassy eyes an opioid. But technology such as e-prescribing has made it harder for pharmacists to keep that human touch upon the initial presentation of the prescription. However, there is an opportunity to counsel the patient at the time of dispensing.
5. Don’t hinder opioids for legitimate use
E-prescribing has improved how quickly we can send controlled and non-controlled substance products. But opioids require dual authentication, and sometimes these steps reduce e-prescribing adoption and prescriptions for patients who need opioids. As we set controls, we must remember there is a population of patients that legitimately need opioids to manage pain and survive.
6. Look at what the data is telling us
Information within electronic health records (EHRs) are teaching us new ways to attack opioid abuse and misuse. Data can improve efficiency and help clinicians better manage the opioid epidemic. Prescribers can utilize reports to manage the needs of each patient population. The reports from Allscripts Sunrise™ Clinical Performance Manager (CPM) help prescribers closely examine opioid prescribing patterns in emergency rooms.
7. Understand and promote multimodal pain management
A common misconception is that non-opioid products don’t meet the required plan of care to assure patients are appropriately prescribed. Alternative and new therapies let people rethink the solution to the problem and open a wider plan of care.
With time comes a stronger understanding about the opioid epidemic. Though the issues are staggering, I believe we are slowly learning new strategies that can save the lives of individuals, families and communities across the country.
Editor’s note: Reed Hansen spoke on this topic at the Becker’s Hospital Review 4th Annual Health IT + Revenue Cycle Conference on Sept. 19, 2018.