Why Information Management is Critical to Combating the Opioid Crisis

December 07, 2018

 The United States is currently facing an opioid epidemic, one of the worst public health crisis in recent history. In 2017 alone, two-thirds of the 72,000 drug-overdose deaths were opioid-related. With increasing accountability and compliance mandates, healthcare providers can leverage technology solutions to effectively manage the multitude of records and information surrounding the prescription, use, and distribution of opioids.

With a staggering 11.4 million Americans misusing prescription opioids, new laws are mandating that hospitals and pharmaceutical companies comply with new regulations that require these institutions to consistently monitor where prescription drugs are going and who is receiving them. On October 24, 2018, the Support for Patients and Communities Act was signed into law, aiming to increase the accountability of US healthcare organizations by placing restrictions on the amount of opioid prescriptions allowed and increasing penalties for drug manufacturers and distributors who over-prescribe opioids.

To reign in prescription drug misuse and abuse, the US has also mainly enforced compliance and limited providers. According to Athena Health, 19 states limit the number of opioids that can be prescribed at one time, and all states and Washington, DC (except Missouri) update a state-wide prescription drug monitoring database at least weekly.

With this and the more expansive Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018 introduced to the Senate, it is crucial that the healthcare and pharmaceutical organizations have records and information management systems in place that allow them to comply with the new laws immediately.

Health organizations are already being held liable for poor record keeping practices, including data security and prescription drug monitoring:

  • In January 2018, Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri was sued over a medical records breach, leaking the Personally Identifiable Information (PII) of 63,049 individuals.
  • On August 30, 2018, the University of Michigan Health System was forced to pay a $4.3 million penalty after the DEA discovered that they failed to keep accurate records of the drugs it received, dispensed, delivered, or disposed; and they failed to report thefts of their controlled substances.

The grave mishandling of confidential documents and federally-mandated drug tracking in these could have been avoided if secure record and information management systems were in place, as a part of an overall information governance strategy.

The healthcare sector can utilize a secure records and information management (RIM) system to monitor and audit the records associated with opioid use. These enterprise-wide systems provide a permanent audit trail for all records, including activity and access, ensuring accountability and visibility.

Along with multi-level security settings, a records and information management system can greatly improve the possibility of drugs being mishandled. With lives at stake, it is critical that health and pharmaceutical organizations has systems in place that can monitor and track the amount prescription opioids being received, dispensed, and disposed throughout the organization.