Opioid addiction strains hospital bottom lines

The growing number of Americans addicted to opioids and other drugs is not just a public health crisis, but one that creates a genuine strain on the bottom lines of hospitals, Healthcare Finance News reported.

Large numbers of these patients wind up at hospital emergency rooms for treatment and their insurance may not be enough to cover the cost of their care, according to the publication.

"More people are insured but they may be underinsured in terms of what hospitals need to recover their costs," Liz Stallings, director of the clinical operations division of HFS Consultants, told Healthcare Finance News. "There are a huge amount of resources--medicine and labor--absorbed in responding to overdose patents."

About half of those who were treated at hospital emergency rooms for opioid overdoses were admitted to the hospital for care, according to a recent study by researchers at Stanford University published in JAMA Internal Medicine. The total cost of caring for these patients was $2.3 billion.

Another study has concluded that patients at risk for opioid abuse have healthcare costs three times higher than those patients who do not have any addiction issues. There are some measures healthcare workers can take to mitigate some of the effects of the overdose. For example, paramedics can administer the anti-overdose drug Narcan as they transport patients to the emergency room. However, the price of a single dose of Narcan itself has doubled in the past year--in part due to the demand being created by the opioid epidemic, Healthcare Finance News reported.

Some states have also created real-time prescription registries in order to curb the practice of "doctor-shopping" by patients who seek to obtain multiple prescriptions for opiate painkillers.

To learn more:
- read the Healthcare Finance News article 
- check out the JAMA Internal Medicine abstract

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