Data Analytics: Agents of Change in the Opioid Crisis

I recently moderated a panel discussion on using analytics solutions to address the U.S. opioid epidemic and left the session with four crystal-clear takeaways:

  • We are facing a very, very serious health care crisis.
  • Policy makers, administrators and physicians need to think outside the box to confront this challenge.
  • The earlier we reach children through intervention efforts, the better.
  • Data analytics platforms are valuable tools that can help the health care industry develop solutions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid overdoses accounted for more than 42,000 deaths in 2016, more than any previous year on record. An estimated 40% of opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid.

The health care industry is not standing around doing nothing. Commissions have been established, task forces created, protocols modified, and educational efforts undertaken. Yet, according to a recent CDC report on emergency room hospitalizations for opioid overdoses, the crisis is accelerating.

To counter this, holistic solutions that rely on technology, intervention and education, and account for social determinants of health (SDoH), must be prioritized. Population health management platforms and artificial intelligence can analyze enormous amounts of data and play a vital role in addressing this epidemic. Today, there are solutions available or being developed that can identified at-risk people, as well as doctors and pharmacies that prescribe and dispense the highest amounts of opioids.

SDoH, which play a more prevalent role in prescription opioid addiction than prescribing patterns, must be examined more closely. Socioeconomic conditions, access to health care, social norms, and a slew of other considerations can all factor in to the progression of opioid abuse. Accounting for these conditions, risk stratifying patients, and using predictive analytics, the intervention process could be revolutionized by notifying individuals and providers alike about the potential for abuse.

What if we could take these solutions a step further and begin the collection of opioid-related data in childhood?

Kids exposed to trauma are 500x more at risk for addictive behavior. Imagine the benefits of using PHM solutions to flag these incidents, monitor the delivery of social services that may follow, and signal providers across the care continuum that intervention may be necessary at various stages of a child’s development. Further, additional data collection could take place in schools and be timed in a manner that falls into line with the collection of other medical information like proof of vaccinations.

As the opioid crisis continues, the health care industry must address the problem head on. And while there is no simple solution, data analytics can certainly be significant agents of change.

Sanjay Seth

Blogger Name: Sanjay Seth

Date of Publishing : June 19, 2018

About the Author : Sanjay Seth, MD, is executive vice president at HealthEC. With over 30 years of clinical, administrative and consulting experience, Dr. Seth is uniquely positioned to develop population health management strategies that support health care providers and organizations.