For those of us who are avid news consumers (myself included), a certain phrase has rapidly been appearing in the headlines with each passing day: the opioid crisis. The opioid crisis has captured the attention of the U.S. government and media due to its expansive grip on the American public and was recently declared a public health emergency by the current administration. This epidemic not only claims the lives of 130 Americans daily but also subjects a burden of nearly $78.5 billion a year on the U.S. economy. Countermeasures to this crisis have been enacted to provide necessary aid to health care providers and those who suffer nationwide. As active participants in health care, pMD is always seeking to provide a product that will positively impact our clients and the patients that they care for. For us to contribute in a meaningful way, we first have to examine the underlying causes of this opioid crisis.
What Caused the Opioid Crisis?
To understand the actions that government and local communities are currently taking, the first thing that must be addressed is the underlying causes and societal impacts of the opioid crisis. Opioids (and subsequent opioid addiction) have had a presence in American health care since the Civil War, beginning with the use of morphine to treat U.S. soldiers wounded in battle. Then in 1898, Bayer Pharmaceuticals released a new drug that was intended to be a non-addictive alternative to morphine: heroin. Heroin was seen as incredibly addictive, with doctors in the U.S. having objections to the drug as early as 1899. The U.S. endured two major heroin epidemics, once during the Vietnam War era and then again during the late 1980s. With the introduction of prescription opioids such as Oxycontin in the 1990s, the numbers of addicted Americans skyrocketed. Today, there is a strong link between opioid overdose and prescription opioids.
To provide some context on the severity of the opioid situation, here are some startling statistics:
Nearly 11.5 million Americans misuse prescription opioids with over 40 percent of all opioid-related overdoses being attributed to prescription opioids.
The CDC states that those who use prescription opioids are 40 times more likely to use heroin compared to 2 times more likely for those who consume alcohol.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) finds that more Americans die from opioid overdoses than motor vehicle crashes.
The Midwest has seen a 70 percent increase in opioid overdoses from 2016 to 2017.
Large cities across the country continue to struggle with opioid addiction, as 16 major cities saw a 54 percent increase in opioid related overdoses.
Overall, the United States is taking a major hit from the over prescription and trafficking of pharmaceutical opioids.
Recent laws that have been passed to address the opioid crisis include the bipartisan Substance Use Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act. SUPPORT has many potential positive impacts on the opioid crisis, ranging from increasing the amount of first responders carrying naloxone to the expansion of access to addiction treatment for Medicare and Medicaid patients. This law requires state agencies to establish drug management programs, notably state-run databases called Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP). PDMPs are increasingly being integrated into Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems, allowing for easy access and real-time updates to a patient’s history. PDMPs are also actively managed by U.S. health departments to help form more effective responses to the crisis using real data.
pMD is passionate about improving the lives of patients and having a positive impact on health care. So, what can pMD do to help with the opioid crisis? Now that all 50 states have functional PDMPs, physicians are required to accurately document patient interaction with opioids in their daily visits. pMD’s customizable software can help groups capture necessary data relating to opioid interactions and pMD’s Care Navigation and Clinical Communication tools would also be an asset to opioid recovery teams throughout the country. Opioid recovery teams are comprised of professionals who cover all the bases of opioid recovery to increase patient success, including behavioral health specialists, physicians, social workers, peer recovery coaches, and even lawyers. pMD creates a space for care teams to successfully track the progress of opioid recovery patients while also communicating with each other on the same platform. This, in turn, allows the health care system to have a more significant impact on the opioid crisis as a whole. For as long as the opioid crisis exists, pMD will continue to find ways to spread awareness and create solutions that will have a positive impact on the U.S. health care system.