Opiate addiction plagues U.S., but there is hope

B_Connors_Info-PicU.S. heroin and prescription drug use is an epidemic that is spinning out of control. According to a report published by Reuters, there were more than 43,000 deaths in 2013, of which more than half involved either a prescription painkiller or heroin. That number has continued to rise each year.

How do we, the U.S. population or even the healthcare community, allow this trend to continue?

What is not publicized enough is the direct connection between prescription opiates and heroin. In the U.S., 52 million people over the age of 12 have used prescription drugs non-medically in their lifetime, according to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In 2010, enough prescription painkillers, such as OxyContin, Vicodin and others, were prescribed to medicate every American adult every four hours for one month, reports the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

When these painkillers become unavailable or more difficult to access, a person looks for alternatives  such as heroin. Heroin provides the desired “high” at close to one-tenth of the price. Then we see a crossover – from prescription drug/painkiller to heroin.

Fortunately, it is not complete doom and gloom. SAMSHA continues to award federal grants to many states in which heroin-opiate addiction is killing thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of people per year. The success of Medication Assisted Treatment also has evolved to better combat this rising public health issue.

Our treatment centers now are expanded to provide methadone, Suboxone or Naltrexone – all clinically proven protocols to aid in the treatment of addiction. Treatment is seen to be extremely successful when partnered with lifestyle changes, individual and/or group therapy, and most of all a changed view of life.

While we struggle with the headlines reporting another heroin addiction and death, we must also publicize that treatment is not only an option … but a life changer.

Leading the Interoperability Charge with Local Health Departments

Adam_M_Info-Pic.fwThe public health sector and local health departments (LHDs) across the country are seeing a big swing in the services they provide – moving from a solely traditional population health model to that of a primary care provider for the population that they serve.  As this shift occurs, it’s imperative that LHDs are laser-focused on patient care and not on cumbersome paper shuffling.

Family planning annual reports are required by the Office of Population Affairs (OPA) to monitor compliance, show accountability for Title X federal funds, help with strategic and financial planning, and respond to inquiries from policymakers and Congress. It is critical to have accurate and timely data in order to allocate funding and resources to where it is needed most, or resources will not be applied appropriately. That’s why the Title X Grantee’s Bi-annual Meeting in Washington this week is so important.

This event is a special opportunity for representatives of the 4,100 clinical service sites who receive federal funding under the program to come together to learn about new requirements, innovations in the field of reproductive health and updates to clinical guidelines.

Netsmart has been tapped to demonstrate its work on the foundational testing of FPAR (Family Planning Annual Reports) 2.0 and some of its functionality. It’s not the first such demonstration. Along with OPA, AEGIS, Epic and the Utah Department of Health, Netsmart presented a test case earlier this year in the Interoperability Showcase during the HIMSS Annual Conference. Due to the overwhelming positive response, OPA and its partners have invited Netsmart to bring the test case before a more industry-focused audience.

Through current interoperability standards and the additional standards included in the FPAR 2.0 profile, a Meaningful Use Stage 2-certified EHR (electronic health record) can send and receive content from a trusted source. In our demonstration, Netsmart has a trusted and established relationship with a state health department that is acting as the grantee and the “form manager.”  This health department consumes the data that Netsmart is sending in the form of a structured CCD (Continuity of Care Document), maps the information into the appropriate fields and populates the FPAR form. Once complete and verified by the state health department, it is sent back to the EHR user for review and submission to the OPA. This process reduces the extreme burdens of managing these forms locally, the cost and time of hundreds of hours staff can spend matching fields and data entry of patient information, and the complexity of handling and submitting large amounts of data in paper form.

Efficient, dependable and interoperable EHRs ensure that local health departments can adapt to the ever-changing healthcare landscape. It’s a major responsibility and honor to help lead the charge.

The Healthcare IT Value Model — A multidimensional healthcare IT planning and measurement tool for the HHS community


In the fast-evolving world of value-based contracts and coordinated care, providers need a strategic roadmap to guide them on the journey to true consumer-centered care by adopting smart technologies made for this new environment. Providers are asking hard questions: “What should I do next?” “How do I adopt the right IT strategy
that addresses all my clinical and operational workflows and processes?” “How can I work smarter to drive wellness for the individuals I serve while keeping costs down?” Continue reading The Healthcare IT Value Model — A multidimensional healthcare IT planning and measurement tool for the HHS community