The Rising Opioid Abuse Epidemic

As the 11th annual Stewards of Change National Symposium is fast approaching, I have been pondering how states might be able to address one of the fastest growing and troubling outbreaks in this country: the rising opioid abuse epidemic.   Simply reflect on this statistic. In 2014, there were one and a half times more drug overdose deaths than deaths from motor vehicle crashes.1

The use of narcotics for pain treatment at all levels (acute, subacute, and chronic) is, of course, a legitimate and important intervention in the medical profession. That said, it is also a sad reality that a significant number of patients will likely become addicted to opioids during treatment, which could lead to unanticipated health problems and additional treatments, and as a result increasing healthcare costs. I can’t help but wonder if the utilization of interoperability, responsible information-sharing and an understanding of the social determinants of health are keys to addressing the opioid epidemic – which, or course, are the very themes that Stewards of Change has been championing for over a decade.

That is why I am so excited about the upcoming Stewards of Change symposium being held at John Hopkins University on June 13 and 14. At this symposium, Stewards of Change 2016 will build on its important work regarding interoperability, information sharing and the social determinants of health to introduce “InterOptimability” (Interoperability + Optimization) as a means for laying the groundwork for building a new “Network of Networks Community of Interest” that will link together committed interoperability leaders of key program/agency sectors.   I am very excited to be a part of these new initiatives and believe that this symposium – and this new network — will be critical to resolving issues like the opioid crisis.

Over the past several years, Deloitte Consulting LLP has been working on ways to effectively address the opioid epidemic, including the use of predictive analytics to identify which patients have a higher likelihood of abusing opioids. What we are learning is that through early identification of high-risk patients, insurance companies can leverage behavioral economics and data-driven nudges to assist treating physicians in improving patient outcomes as well as to help to prevent opioid dependency and addiction   For example, an insurance company might elect to use a peer-to-peer contact/data-drive nudge such as “did you know that 95% of physicians we work with follow state prescribing guidelines and only prescribe 30 days of opioids for this type of injury?” as a way of preventing the inadvertent over-prescription of opioids. Indeed, this combination of predictive data analytics and behavior economics may help patients avoid a problem that they never expected to have in the first place.

I am energized about this predictive modeling solution and I look forward to sharing it with you at the highly anticipated 2016 SOC symposium.



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