Health IT's role in battling the opioid addiction crisis

The effort by the Obama administration and health officials to tackle the opioid addiction crisis in the United States is heating up--and health IT has a role to play.

This week, Shatterproof, a nonprofit lobbyist group, said in a blog post that it is sending a report to legislators on requiring use of databases that track patients' use of opioids and sedatives. The report comes at the same time the Department of Health and Human Services proposed a rule to increase the patient limit for qualified physicians to treat opioid use disorder.

In that proposed rule, HHS notes that qualified practice settings includes ones that are "registered for their state prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) where operational and in accordance with federal and state law."

In addition, according to an Associated Press report, the White House sent letters to every state governor last week recommending they require providers to check the databases and require pharmacists to upload drug dispensing data daily.

The report from Shatterproof includes best practices for creating laws surrounding the databases when they write prescriptions for opioids.

"When properly used, PDMPs prevent doctors from accidently prescribing a lethal combination of drugs. They can also help identify signs of addiction in time to direct patients into treatment," Shatterproof founder and CEO Gary Mendell said.

Florida last April reported that deaths related to abuse of oxycodone drop by 25 percent after that state implemented a PDMP, FierceHealthIT previously reported.

However, the AP reports that in a press conference last week, Tom Frieden, M.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that not a single state has "an optimal prescription drug monitoring program that works in real time, actively managing every prescription."

Earlier this month, the CDC released opioid prescription guidelines that recommended primary care clinicians prescribe treatments other than opioids for chronic pain outside of active cancer treatment, palliative care and end-of-life care.

To learn more:
- read the Shatterproof blog post
- here's the Shatterproof report (.pdf)
- here's the HHS proposed rule
- check out the AP report