Data and the Opioid Crisis

A recap on a Senate hearing about data and the opioid crisis
by Lenka Vanova:

As the fifth one in a series of hearings on the opioid crisis, on Tuesday February 27th, the U. S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing on The Role of Technology and Data in Preventing and Treating Addiction. Chaired by Sen. Lamar Alexander and co-chaired by Sen. Patty Murray, the hearing presented an opportunity to explore the intricate issue from various perspectives.

Snezana Mahon, Vice President Clinical Product Development of Express Scripts, presented results of the Advanced Opioid ManagementTM Program. The program can be inspiring in its combination of prescriber engagement, patient education and outreach, as well as engagement of pharmacies in its effort to reduce opioid consumption and potential misuse and abuse. Sherry L. Green of Sherry L. Green & Associations, LLC and a co-founder of the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws called primarily for the standards which technology and data solutions are to facilitate to remain clear and consistent. This is not only essential for all parties to be able to comply with these but also to allow data sharing across various systems. Snaket Shah, Clinical Assistant Professor of Health Informatics at the University of Illinois, Chicago stressed that data sharing is crucial to any analysis and also to the possibility  to identify individuals who are at risk of becoming opioid dependent.  With all this in mind, H. Wesley Clark, Dean’s Executive Professor of Public Health Program at Santa Clara University urged all parties to remain cautious about patient privacy and data protection.

In all the testimonies, the Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP) tended to be one of the most often mentioned weapons in the opioid overdose epidemic combat. It is also one that has been implemented in almost all states in a hope to identify potentially harmful behavior and prevent opioid misuse and abuse among patients. A tool which is currently not as widely established but one that is believed to complement PDMPs to prevent further spread of the opioid epidemic is electronic prescribing (e-prescribing). Currently, increasing numbers of states require its use for controlled substances in order to prevent pharmacy shopping, to enable better prescription tracking, and to reduce fraud and waste.

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