The opioid crisis has been long in the making and has yet to cease force as it continues to permeate the healthcare community. Drug use admission rates have increased 500 percent since the early 2000s.

According to the CDC, there were more than 63,000 overdose deaths in 2016, which surpasses the number of car accidents and gun deaths in that same year. When studying the opioid epidemic, it’s important to consider the causes of addiction, which can range from genetics, overprescribing and dual diagnoses leading to irregulated self-medication. It’s clear there is no one target to blame, which makes the crisis even more dynamic and challenging.

So, what can the healthcare community do to combat the opioid crisis? The reality is that there is no one remedy; however, the solution must be aggressive, multifaceted and technology-based. A key asset to facing this epidemic is facilitating whole-person care by utilizing an integrated or “blended” treatment approach. This can be achieved with medication and cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, care coordination, increasing peer and recovery support and patient and family engagement. The better the outcome the greater the cost savings for the larger healthcare ecosystem. The combination of treatment types has proven results, with a 50 percent lower risk of relapse and costs cut nearly in half. It is imperative that organizations with technology platforms support and enhance whole-person care.

Recovery Resources in Ohio is on the front lines of the crisis. The organization optimizes technology as part of their clinical decision-making process. Electronic health records (EHRs) and Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) allow facilities like Recovery Resources to have increased access to integrated health data and treatment information, which empowers clinicians to make more informed clinical and medical decisions. In relation to the opioid crisis, PDMPs give providers real-time access to patient histories and allows for intervention when someone is abusing prescriptions or doctor shopping for multiple refills of opioids or other controlled substances.

Telehealth technology addresses a substantial impediment to treatment, access to care. It provides timely access to specialized care during crises, expands care options to existing clients and can help a family remain intact when a parent is recovering. This is achieved by providing increased treatment flexibility and immediate access to treatment when a parent is in recovery. Telehealth removes barriers to treatment such as transportation, missed appointments and lack of patient engagement. Individuals don’t have to choose between work and a doctor’s appointment, therefore their treatment becomes more flexible and achievable. The concept of creating a comprehensive network of providers to bring healthcare directly to the consumer not only has the potential to drastically improve health outcomes, but lower costs by empowering providers to deliver care in the lowest acuity setting possible.

Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC) have been a catalyst that technology vendors have used to expand solutions in order to establish a foundation for achieving value-based care. From an addictions perspective, technology supporting value-based care must provide solutions for analytics, evidence-based practices, care coordination, consumer engagement, interoperability and accounting. CCBHC has also been pivotal in expanding opioid treatment capacity. Nearly 40 percent of CCBHC organizations began offering Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) as a new service in addition to 43 percent expanding already existing MAT programs.

Although the battle has not been won, progress combating the opioid crisis has been made. The massive Opioid Bill recently signed by the White House addresses caseload caps for waivered physicians, expands MAT and removes barriers that limit telehealth as a method of treatment. The bill also includes a financial incentive for EHR implementation in behavioral health and substance use organizations. Along with a legislative push, technology is a crucial for change, and in this case can work to make addiction treatment more efficient, proactive and patient centered.

To find out more about the work Recovery Resources is doing, watch the webinar here.