Patient Care & The Opioid Epidemic - A Clinician's Perspective

By: Mario Ramirez, MD

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Date: 03/18/2017

Filed Under: MACRA, Clinician Perspective

As a clinician in America today, there can be intense pressure to focus on multiple things at once. Our priority is providing high quality patient care, delivered in a timely and safe manner.  Patient care has to be the focus every day. Everything is built on that.  Unfortunately, it’s all of the other changes going on in medicine that make it increasingly difficult to maintain that focus.  Today, I can’t open a medical journal, or walk into the hospital, without thinking about words like bundled care, value based delivery, and disruption. And the more I try to learn about it, the more chaotic the whole thing seems to become.  I’m constantly considering how new government mandates and payment reform are going to influence our ability to keep our practices operational and profitable.  But regardless of how much turmoil exists, I’ve come to realize that this is the new normal in American medicine.  This type of disruption and instability will be here to stay not only because patients are consuming health care differently, but also because the financial pressures to develop cost containing measures while still delivering quality care are strengthening.

In the middle of this changing landscape, there’s another problem that keeps me concerned:  the staggering toll of the opioid abuse epidemic in this country. It is tearing at our social and economic fabric in a way we haven’t seen since the cocaine epidemic of the 1980s.  You only need to look at the front page of any newspaper to get a sense for the harm this problem is inflicting.  Every time I speak with others about this, whether they are clinicians, administrators, or policy makers, we narrow in on three needs:

  1. Continuing innovation in pain management strategies
  2. Improved tools to help guide our prescribing practices so that safe use is maximized while the potential for drug diversion is diminished
  3. Improving relationship between patients, providers, insurance companies, and health systems, so the focus remains on quality care with the patient at the center of those relationships

To the first point, many agree that there is simply an absence of solid, evidence based guidance about effective pain management strategies in the setting of the opioid epidemic.  We know drugs work in the right context, but we have yet to develop programs that can be delivered, at scale, to help wean patients off of these medications and onto alternate modalities that provide effective comfort and pain relief.  We need not only new drugs and therapies, but we need a better understanding of how patients are consuming these medications.  Data on usage patterns and pain relief is critical for an effective strategy between patients and providers going forward.

Second, we need the private sector to develop innovative tools that are both user friendly and deliver useful, actionable data at a price that isn’t going to add financial pressure on our practices.  State based prescription database monitoring programs were the first wave of these tools.  Now we need that data to be collected and analyzed into information that can help clinicians make better decisions on the fly, in real time.

Finally, we need these innovative tools to alter the patient care relationship in a way that doesn’t diminish the connection between patients and providers.  These tools must strengthen that bond so that all parties can make informed decisions about opioid management in a manner that puts the patient at the center of the care relationship.

I believe AffirmHealth Dash delivers value in all three of these areas.  By taking the administrative burden out of opioid management and delivering clearly actionable data that shows adherence to prescribing mandates in line with value based delivery models, AffirmHealth Dash is an easy to adopt solution that improves patient safety and care.  It gives providers more information about how patients are using these medications and gives clinicians the ability to see how their recommended prescriptions will affect other pain medications these patients are using.  In addition, it helps providers address any concerns they may have about drug diversion and addiction with evidence based information that can be reviewed and discussed with patients.  And finally, it achieves these goals in a manner that delivers significant financial savings for a low cost investment.

If you’re interested in understanding how AffirmHealth can help your practice, contact us.  We’d be happy to discuss our product with you and show how our tool can help you deliver what you want most:  to be able to focus on delivering high quality care to your patients.

Like what you've read. Download our latest free eBook, Solving the Opioid Epidemic: A Clinician's Perspective by AffirmHealth Chief Medical Officer Mario Ramirez, MD.

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