Sad woman with open bottle of opioids

Close up of a depressed woman beside a lot of pills on a table on a dark background

Using Interoperability to Combat the Opioid Epidemic

If you work in healthcare technology, then most likely you’ve been hearing a lot about interoperability. What exactly does interoperability in the healthcare landscape look like?

According to an article by HIMSS, it “is the ability of different information systems, devices or applications to connect, in a coordinated manner, within and across organizational boundaries to access, exchange and cooperatively use data amongst stakeholders, with the goal of optimizing the health of individuals and populations”.

The concept of interoperability is so significant and provoking in healthcare today. With the increasing amount of data being collected and housed within healthcare organizations, there are tremendous opportunities for not only improving healthcare operations, but for addressing individual and population health at large.

Systems partaking in this type of data exchange allows for complete collaboration from all ends of the healthcare landscape.

Interoperability and the Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic is considered one of the deadliest drug overdose crises in the history of the United States. According to the CDC, from 1999 to 2017, more than 700,000 people fell victim to the crisis. In 2017 alone, the number of overdose deaths was 6 times higher than in 1999.

With such daunting numbers surrounding this crisis, where can interoperability begin to alleviate the upward trend?

While there are many clinical decision support tools available to hospitals, pharmacies, and physician offices with features such as managing opioid prescriptions and flagging at-risk patients, it does little in the grand scheme of things if these various systems are not communicating with each other. Interoperability would allow the knowledge around opioid usage and prescribing practices to be shared at scale.

According to Intermountain Healthcare’s CMIO Stan Huff, MD – “Interoperability makes it possible to scale share [clinical] programs as executable knowledge as opposed to a written protocol that somebody then has to implement and make into software and write a program for at every single facility that wants to do that.”

How We’re Doing our Part

At PDX, we believe that moving the needle towards increased interoperability is central in our mission to improving the opioid crisis in our country.  That’s why we have designed our Enterprise Pharmacy System® (EPS) and clinical services platform (Care Rx®), to proactively identify at-risk patients for possible Substance Use Disorder (SUD) and automated the Morphine Milligram Equivalents (MME) calculation, so that hard halts within EPS workflow are triggered to alert the dispensing pharmacists when a specified MME per day threshold is reached. The pharmacists are able to recommend Naloxone for these high-risk individuals, limit the quantity of the prescription being dispensed, or take other appropriate interventions.

Together, we can fight against the opioid epidemic by building and implementing interoperable, patient-centric technology and empowering our healthcare professionals to make better decisions and deliver better care.

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