Monday, December 02 | Post-Acute Care, EHR Solutions and Operations, Thought Leadership

The Impact of the Opioid Crisis in Post-Acute Care

By Cheri Whalen, Regulatory Strategist

The opioid crisis continues to be a topic of concern across the country. Most people typically don’t make an initial correlation with it and its impact on post-acute care. Over recent years, however, its bearing on the industry has become more apparent. Opioid addiction impacts not only the lives of those affected but also their friends, families and communities. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 130 opioid-related deaths per day in America. This is why providers need to understand potential risks brought to their patients in the form of opioid use.

Individuals transitioning into a hospice, home care, skilled nursing, or other post-acute care settings will require providers to take a person-centered approach to care, which considers all aspects of an individual’s health background. History of recreational or prescribed opioid use or social influences such as a close family member or loved one whose life has been impacted by opioid addiction can have a tremendous impact on care decisions made to support an individual’s overall health.

The Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act, passed in 2018 as a part of ongoing legislation to combat the opioid crisis, was created in response to the overwhelming need to curb addiction in our nation. The SUPPORT Act encourages a combination of provider education and technology to make a valuable impact on reducing the effects of the opioid crisis. Let’s dive in to find out more about specific aspects for post-acute providers to consider in quelling the effects of the crisis on individuals in their care.

Technology’s role in combatting the crisis

Information technology, data sharing, analytics and interoperability are critical components in a strong electronic health record (EHR) strategy to support the philosophies of both the SUPPORT Act as well as many prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) across the country. Post-acute care providers who are successful in managing the prescription and use of opioids have relied on technology and widespread network connections to share and receive patient information across care settings. Here are some things to think about:

Direct, easy access to patient data has been shown to help identify populations at risk for prescription opioid abuse. Having a robust data and analytics tool can help identify areas of concern by providing multiple views to explore historical and current data by individual patient, facility or region. It can help predict, identify and monitor all the information that comes in from intake all the way through to determine if additional help is needed. It all comes back to provide the best possible care to the patient and for their family members.

Easy data collection and access to vital data are critical for care and service providers, but it’s just as crucial for providers to understand what it tells them. It’s about knowing what signs or patterns to look for and having the ability to communicate that information within an interdisciplinary team. For example, a recorded note regarding a family member entering an addiction treatment facility shared with an individual’s care team could serve as an avenue to provide additional support or monitoring for opioid abuse. The more providers understand about a patient, the better they can assess their needs.

Simple, seamless electronic communication should extend to external referral sources and partners. Interoperability and data sharing enable clinical staff to easily reconcile medication that could have been prescribed in another care setting, reducing the need for duplicate manual entry along with the risk of human error. For example, when a patient is transferred to acute care, they can access clinical data like continuity of care documentation or assessments from a hospice and vice versa. Knowing a patient’s history of emergency department visits or being notified in real-time of a new visit can also help providers identify potential overdose and begin interventions to avoid re-hospitalizations. The sharing of data in a bi-directional or two-way exchange supports the collaboration needed for true integrated care.

ePrescribing has been a critical factor in medication management, including the tracking and monitoring of opioids. Through back and forth communication and data and analytics like those mentioned earlier, providers can identify adverse reactions with other medications and allergies, prevent human errors, and is an essential tool for preventing stolen or altered paper prescriptions. These factors, along with added security, serve as substantial tools in fighting the crisis.

PDMPs provide additional visibility for providers as they digitally track patients and their use of prescribed opioids. The SUPPORT Act defines the need to support data sharing and even includes matching funds to these programs to help implement the sharing of data between PDMPs, which help prevent providers from prescribing multiple or duplicate medications for the same illness or episode, regardless of location.

These are just a few items to take into account. Although federal guidelines primarily impact prescribing authorities such as palliative care physicians, primary care doctors and nurse practitioners, providers across the full care continuum must take necessary steps to educate themselves, families, patients, and caregivers on prevention, risk and treatment. NAHC President, Bill Dombi, recommends specifically that hospice and palliative care providers should be taking steps to read and understand their responsibilities the SUPPORT Act and thoroughly educate families regarding appropriate opioid disposal. The same can be said for providers in all post-acute care settings.

Ultimately, it is every provider’s responsibility to understand their role as it applies to the SUPPORT Act. They must do their due diligence to understand their obligations under it both locally and nationally. They should also consult and collaborate with their technology partners to implement connectivity and interoperability to obtain the full picture of their patients. Taking the time to develop a comprehensive approach sets a solid foundation for true person-centered care and gives providers a boost to combat the opioid crisis affecting so many individuals and families within our communities.

Ready to learn more? Check out our webinar, Hidden Impacts: The Opioid Crisis and Its Toll on Adults, Children and Families, Pain Management and Palliative Care where we explore ways organizations are addressing opioid use head-on.



Meet the Author

Cheri Whalen Blog Photo
Cheri Whalen · Regulatory Strategist


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