Health IT Now (HITN), a coalition of patient groups, providers, employers, and payers supporting health information technology, has launched its Opioid Safety Alliance with the aim to advance technology-enabled solutions to combat the scourge of opioid misuse.
The working group, comprised of HITN members and non-members alike, comes together at a time when drug overdoses have now claimed more lives in a single year than car crashes, gun violence, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic at their respective peaks, the coalition’s officials said in an announcement.
HITN’s leadership also noted that the threat of opioid misuse has received heightened attention on Capitol Hill, including the 2016 passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and last year’s public health emergency declaration from the White House. “However, until now, there lacked a unified, multi-stakeholder advocacy effort from the health IT community to drive solutions that prevent abuse while promoting legitimate access to needed medications,” HITN officials attested.
Member organizations of the Opioid Safety Alliance include the Association of Behavioral Health and Wellness, Brain Injury Association of America, Centerstone, Chapman University School of Pharmacy, CoverMyMeds, eRx Network, IBM, Intermountain Healthcare, McKesson, National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs, Netsmart, Oracle, RelayHealth, and Walgreens.
Opioid Safety Alliance members plan to advocate for reforms that include:
Enacting a Facilitator Model for Patient Safety: Opioid Safety Alliance members believe that more must be done to ensure clinicians have a full, accurate picture of a patient’s medical history when prescribing or dispensing opioids. The Facilitator Model for Patient Safety would reflect the solution formulated by the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) to ensure that information flowing to providers, pharmacists, and state databases is easily-accessible, secure, and available in real-time—even when a patient attempts to fill a prescription across state lines.
Supporting funding to upgrade PDMP technology: Beyond the funding provided for the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, Opioid Safety Alliance members are calling upon Congress to provide additional funding specifically for PDMP enhancements, including allowing interoperability across states.
Ensuring clinician access to substance abuse information. Members attest that Congress must break down silos in patients’ medical records so that all information—including substance abuse history—is available to healthcare providers (42 CFR Part 2 reform). Currently, record sharing requirements under federal law restrict provider access to addiction records and prevent clinicians from having complete information needed for safe, effective, and coordinated treatment. Opioid Safety Alliance members support aligning laws governing addiction records with HIPAA requirements to improve access and ensure providers are not left with incomplete information when making prescribing decisions.
Expanding treatment options. The Opioid Safety Alliance will work to fully leverage telehealth and digital virtual peer support programs to provide substance use disorder treatment options via technology enabled care. Too often, stigma prevents treatment, members attest; virtual care can fundamentally alter this dynamic. Congress should reimburse innovative care delivery models in Medicare and Medicaid, and the administration should knock down regulatory barriers to providing treatment virtually, they attest.
Testing emerging technologies. Emerging technologies and standards have shown promise in securing the supply chain in other sectors. The Opioid Safety Alliance will urge Congress and the administration to explore options to use emerging technologies to protect distribution.
HITN Executive Director Joel White said in a statement, “This is a public health emergency, yes, but for the health IT community, it must also be a call to action. Opioid Safety Alliance members have coalesced around bold, actionable solutions that bring the full force of technology to bear in solving this crisis.”
White added, “After all, opioid misuse is a 21st-century epidemic and it demands forward-thinking, 21st-century solutions. Together, we are fighting to strengthen our network of prescription drug monitoring programs with a facilitator that transmits information securely, in real-time, and captures data from across state lines. We are also working to reform privacy laws that, for too long, have kept doctors in the dark by isolating patients’ addiction records from the rest of their medical history. Already, the Opioid Safety Alliance is engaging lawmakers and regulators to discuss the difference these solutions will make, both in reduced costs and saved lives. We are ready to be part of the solution and are betting that Washington is ready to listen.”
The working group will begin its advocacy efforts quickly, including providing testimony at the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) January 30th meeting of the Opioid Policy Steering Committee.