Event Reporting as a Strategy to Combat Opioid Overdose Crisis

March 7, 2019 RL Team

The Opioid crisis is disrupting healthcare, but there is great optimism surrounding new strategies and policies being deployed to address the impact. In 2017, there were a record 70,000 drug overdose deaths, about two-thirds of which were linked to Opioids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that 2018 is estimated to have even higher numbers. The alarming reality is that patients throughout the world are dying in unprecedented numbers from therapies prescribed to treat pain.

Despite such statistics, there is hope in the ongoing fight against this Opioid overdose epidemic. As we seek to understand the root causes, comprehensive and timely data collection is key. In fact, CDC cites data as a critical tool in supporting preventative efforts.

Data helps us understand the extent of the epidemic, provide resources where they are needed, and evaluate the success of prevention efforts. CDC recognizes the importance of data and helps states track the epidemic and funds research to identify effective strategies to prevent Opioid overdose.

The power of data as a vehicle for change is evident in the Annual Surveillance Reports that are used to monitor emerging trends. An unprecedented number of patients are dying from overdoses and overprescribing of Opioids and data remains the CDC’s number one weapon.

Data as a Catalyst for Positive Change

Incident related information is captured seamlessly and in real-time, the collected data can provide situational context to assist in preventing future cases. .Data can also be used as a shared learning tool to educate staff members, start or support patient safety and quality initiatives and promote a culture of safety at an organization.

Organizations can encourage frontline staff to report on potential Opioid abuse cases before misuse occurs. While reporting data traditionally support strategies aimed at reducing the misuse or abuse of prescription drugs, prescription monitoring programs and Non-Opioid treatments for chronic pain are also strategies organizations can use to combat the epidemic. 

Prescription monitoring programs help identify patients who fill multiple prescriptions of the same drug from many different providers, engage in “doctor shopping” to find willing prescribers, or divert prescribed Opioids to the illicit street market. For the program to be successful and fulfill its goal, reporting is a key component in tackling the Opioid crisis.

Data analysis reveals that with right training healthcare providers can encourage patients to come off of Opioids with Non-Opioid treatments for chronic pain.  

Research also shows that for types of pain related to common workplace-related injuries, including soft tissue injuries and musculoskeletal problems, Opioids are not any more effective than Non-Opioid alternatives such as Tylenol, Advil or generic ibuprofen. Although Opioids are widely prescribed for back injuries and chronic back pain, they should not be the first line of treatment. In fact, long-term use of Opioids actually may increase an individual’s sensitivity to pain – a phenomenon called hyperalgesia. [via link]

In 2017, there were 3,996 Opioid-related deaths in Canada and 72,000 Opioid deaths in the United States. The epidemic has been getting worse since the extensive marketing of OxyContin in the 1990s, and today there is a united front combating the issue with every key stakeholder acknowledging the immense scope of the epidemic.

The strategies and policies now in place have been implemented following the analysis of data reported by healthcare workers. RL Solutions’ risk management software, endorsed by the American Hospital Association, is a comprehensive, advanced event reporting system, that captures such data as-it-happens. Together with the teams at CDC, policy changers and healthcare workers, RL helps to put the emphasis on making reporting a priority. With an easy to use software, organizations can provide meaning to their data that supports preventative efforts.

Leverage your hospital data to become proactive in preventing Opioid crisis. See how Lehigh Valley Health System used RL's software to identify and mitigate incidents with drug diversion. Watch the webinar


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