Healthcare professionals are at the center of the opioid epidemic currently gripping the United States. The leading cause of death for Americans under 50, a study by the New York Times found drug overdose deaths exceeded 59,000 in 2016. This was up over the 52,000 recorded in 2015. Even more alarming, 2017 is on pace to surpass last year’s totals.
Is your practice trying to help fight this pandemic? You’ll need a plan, a staff fully covered by business insurance for medical professionals and a place to start. Keep reading to learn more.
A Doctor Practicing Tough Love
By most accounts, the medical community has contributed generously to making the U.S. the world’s leading consumer of prescription opioids. As a result, the U.S. accounts for nearly 100 percent of the consumption of Vicodin and some 81 percent of Percocet.
In response, one doctor in rural New Hampshire now requires patients to sign an agreement, authorizing him to break doctor/patient confidentiality and co-operate with law enforcement officials if he suspects them of abusing the medication. If he finds they’re using a higher dosage than prescribed or diverting them to family or friends, he stops serving them. He goes one step farther if he suspects they’re selling—he turns them in to the authorities.
Prescription Drug Monitoring Program
Another strategy is to look up patient prescription histories before writing new ones. Most states have prescription drug monitoring programs in place for Medicare patients. However, some were built just for police officers—but not health care professionals. Other states only “suggest” prescribers consult the database before writing a prescription. Ten states made accessing the database a specific requirement before prescribing. In those, the number of people receiving prescriptions from five or more different doctors decreased by eight percent and the number of people getting drugs from five or more different pharmacies dropped by 15 percent. If this practice were expanded to all patients as a national requirement the drugs would be more difficult to acquire.
Specific Actions to Take
The Florida Medical Association (FMA) has suggested its doctors engage in education, prevention, treatment and recovery of patients to combat the epidemic. Rather than automatically defaulting to pain medication, the FMA cautions its doctors to weigh the risks against the clinical effectiveness of prescribing these drugs and communicate that information clearly and honestly to patients before doing so. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends doctors start "low and slow" in terms of dosages prescribed. The CDC has also stated physicians have a responsibility to follow up with patients, make sure the treatment is effective and develop strategies to mitigate the risk of addiction and overdose.
With more and more people overdosing on prescription opioids, these examples are good starting points if you have yet to come up with a strategy to help fight the pandemic. The basis of any clinical care plan is stability and accountability—which you can establish for your practice and staff with the right business insurance for medical professionals.
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