How Analytics Can Help Combat the Opioid EpidemicThe statistics are alarming. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, since 1999, the number of drug overdose deaths involving opioids has increased five-fold. More than 100 Americans die every day from opioid use. The numbers indicate a growing problem. But what if the numbers could also provide the solution?

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If used correctly, analytics solutions can enable government agencies and healthcare providers to identify trends in the data and help make a difference in the battle against the opioid epidemic. Let’s take a look at how.

Moving from trends to intervention

At the most basic level, an analytics solution can help organizations – from hospitals to health departments – look at trends in opioid use. That means that users can examine whether opioid use has increased over several quarters or several years. That information can be broken down by patient, by provider, or by dispenser. A more advanced analytics solution, though, can help users go deeper into the numbers and manipulate the data in a way that can enable interventions instead of just looking at trends.

Most states have some kind of prescription drug monitoring program, but the prescriptions they monitor can vary. If a state is monitoring Schedules II through V, covering all thoroughly controlled substances, it could be dealing with tens of thousands of records per day, and millions of records per year. A key data point is Schedule II opioids, considered to be at the highest risk for misuse or abuse. These include drugs such as opium, morphine, codeine, oxycodone, and fentanyl.

Measuring morphine milligram equivalents

One way to assess risk of misuse or abuse, or even death, is to calculate the average daily MME of drugs and see which patients exceed certain MME thresholds. MME stands for morphine milligram equivalents and it is the standardized measurement used across all opioids, since all opioids are not the same in terms of their strength. According to the CDC, patients who are prescribed more than 50 MME per day increase their risk of overdose by at least two times the risk of those prescribed fewer than 20 MME per day.

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Kathy Sucich
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Kathy Sucich

Kathy is director of healthcare marketing at Dimensional Insight. She also manages media relations as well as the company blog. Kathy graduated from Dartmouth College and is currently pursuing her MBA in health sector management at Boston University.
Kathy Sucich
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