How AHIMA is Responding to the Opioid Crisis

AHIMA hopes data gathering and sharing will help address the issue.

Every day, more than 115 people in the United States die as a result of opioid overdose, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NDA).

Tracing the origin of the crisis to the widespread distribution of opioid pain relievers in the 1990s, when pharmaceutical companies insisted that the drugs were not addictive, the NDA has reported that healthcare providers began prescribing them at greater rates – and that the opioids turned out to be highly addictive indeed.

Enter the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) and its data analytics practice council, which today is using data to help address the misuse of prescription opioids, which costs the U.S. an estimated $78.5 billion annually in terms of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and the nation’s criminal justice system, according to today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

So what can healthcare organizations do with this data analysis? And what is AHIMA doing to shed more light on this epidemic? For insight, we interviewed Lesley Kadlec, MA, RHIA, CHDA, who serves as director of Health Information Management (HIM) Practice Excellence at AHIMA, to learn how health data can be used to respond to the crisis and how and when it’s appropriate to share the data.


Buck: How can data be used to respond to the opioid crisis? 

AHIMA: Health data analysts can use both real-time and retrospective data to understand physician prescribing patterns, prescription quantities (such as the number of pills prescribed per written prescription), and opioid refill rates – and to compare this data to the types of illnesses and surgeries (for which) opioid painkillers are being prescribed. Health records are rich with data, and data analysts can use their skills to tap into electronic health records and uncover patterns that help make the data actionable.


Buck: How is this data being collected?  

AHIMA: The increased use of health IT, including the widespread use of electronic health records (EHRs), has resulted in an increase in data capture, including opioid prescribing information and data on abuse, overdoses, and use of overdose antidotes. Additionally, states that have a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) collect information on filled prescriptions for controlled substances, and that data is being made available to clinicians to assist them in making prescribing decisions.


Buck: How is the information from this data being shared in the field? In other words, what’s the feedback loop? 

AHIMA: Clinical decision support tools are being deployed that allow real-time feedback to clinicians at the time of prescribing; for example, this includes integration of PDMPs with EHRs. Interactive dashboards are being used to provide internal and external data on a number of opioid-related statistics, such as emergency department visits, opioid-related deaths, neonatal addictions, etc.


Buck: Are there any examples of this? Any field research?  

AHIMA: At least one state (Illinois) has launched a statewide dashboard to share information among healthcare providers, law enforcement, and community organizations to demonstrate how opioids are affecting its population and to get data into the hands of caregivers to help alleviate the crisis.


Buck: I assume the discussion is about prescription opioids? 

AHIMA: While our team’s work to date has focused on prescriptive opioids, we recognize that the problem extends beyond prescribing to include nonprescriptive opioid use, though accurate data around nonprescriptive use is more difficult to obtain.


Buck: When was the AHIMA data analytics practice council formed, and are there other projects being undertaken at this time? 

AHIMA: The AHIMA Data Analytics Practice Council was launched in January 2018. Many members of the Practice Council had served in volunteer roles on other informatics and data analytics practice councils and task forces in the past as well. The Data Analytics Practice Council is developing a number of articles for publication in the “Advancing Analytics” column for upcoming editions of the Journal of AHIMA, as well as recording Data Dive webinars (complimentary) and writing blog posts for the AHIMA Data Revolution blog

Program Note:

Listen to Lesley Kadlec today on TalkTenTuesdays, 10-10:30 a.m. EST.

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