Nov 21 2017
Patient-Centered Care

Intermountain Healthcare Targets Health IT to Cut Opioid Prescriptions

The health system is leveraging its EHR, new sources of data and its growing health IT infrastructure to cut prescriptions by 40 percent.

Every day, more than 90 Americans die from opioid overdoses, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The federal government has declared the epidemic a national emergency, allowing federal agencies to divert more of their grant money toward it. Meanwhile, states are employing data through Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs to help track and fight “doctor shopping,” or seeing multiple providers with the aim to garner more pain medication prescriptions. But the epidemic is still overwhelming healthcare facilities in many ways.

One health system is looking to nip addiction in the bud by cutting back on overprescribing.

Intermountain Healthcare, a Utah-based, not-for-profit healthcare system that comprises 22 hospitals, 180 clinics and a medical group of 1,600 physicians, is laying the groundwork to reduce opioid prescriptions by 40 percent by the end of 2018.

To reach this goal, which calls to cut more than 5 million opioid prescriptions by the end of next year, the health system is turning to changes in its health IT infrastructure, Health Data Management reports.

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Health IT Changes Systematically Reduce Prescriptions

Intermountain Healthcare was one of the first health systems in the country to formally announce a goal to cut prescriptions. It did so with an eye on stopping the devastation that opioid addiction is inflicting on the communities Intermountain serves in Utah and Idaho.

“When you look at the toll that these medicines take in our communities, we need to be aggressive,” Todd Allen, Intermountain Healthcare’s acting chief quality officer, told Health Data Management. “We’re right up there at the top in terms of the damage that’s being inflicted upon our families and our communities. We knew that we needed to act differently.”

To do this, Allen says Intermountain will tap its growing health IT infrastructure. The health system is on the verge of completing its full rollout of electronic health records (EHR).

In particular, Intermountain hopes to modify its clinical workflow by setting up its EHR system with “prompts and default order sets” in order to systematically reduce the number of opioid tablets that physicians prescribe.

Intermountain will also tap outside data sources to track patient purchasing of Schedule II-V drugs outside the system or state. This will allow doctors to better understand who might be “doctor shopping,” or seeing multiple providers with the aim to garner more pain medication prescriptions. The data will also allow the system to track in real-time if it is getting close to its goal of cutting prescriptions.

“It’s absolutely important for clinicians, physicians to have accurate data that describes their patient population and their particular prescribing habits — and, what the results of those prescribing habits might be,” Allen told Health Data Management. “Because we’re an integrated network, we’ve got really good data down to the physician level and clinical condition level about the number of opioid tablets and milligram morphine equivalency that are prescribed on a system, regional, hospital, clinic and provider basis.”

Finally, the system will look to better educate clinicians on pain management. Already, about 2,500 clinicians have received training.

“We’ll make the training more specific, both to specialties and to the patient populations that physicians and their care teams work with,” Allen told Health Data Management. “We’ll really leverage the growing capabilities of our information technology infrastructure.”

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