Providers struggling to get to Grips with Opioid Epidemic amid the Covid-19 Pandemic
It’s not just the Covid-19 pandemic that is keeping healthcare providers up on their toes, another very serious health issue is plaguing the country – opioid use disorder.
For years deaths from overdoses of opioids crept up at a concerning but moderate average rate of 1,200 additional deaths per year, but recently, the number rose to over 81,000 deaths per year, which has forced the providers to double their efforts to address the opioid crisis.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic shook the country, opioid misuse and abuse was perhaps the biggest public health crisis facing the U.S, but post-pandemic, the healthcare providers have a double healthcare crisis to handle.
Recent reports suggest that deaths caused by prescription opioids and heroin are falling, yet, those resulting from synthetic opioids such as fentanyl continue to rise sharply.
With these grim facts in mind and the ongoing pandemic, healthcare providers are facing several challenges:
- The influx of patients overwhelming an already busy workforce.
- Social isolation has been devastating for the patients who rely on peers to steer through challenging times.
- Stress, loneliness, job loss, housing insecurity are making things worse for the patients.
Keeping these challenges in mind, the healthcare providers are using several strategies to address the issue, which include reaching out via telemedicine to support patients in recovery, make them aware of changes in the law, establishing programs to make anti-overdose medication more accessible, and creating strategies to curtail opioid prescribing.
Besides all the above measures, new care delivery processes are being tested and designed to better manage pain and the potential for opioid drug addiction.
High-quality services and solutions are being tested for better pain management and improve public safety. Hospital data is being utilized to view opioid visits utilization and prescribing practices in various units. With this information, healthcare providers will be able to know where they have opportunities to build new care models for these patients.
Technology can also help healthcare providers in fighting this battle. For instance, medication surveillance solutions can alert healthcare professionals when a patient receives a potentially high-risk drug. Technology can also help clinicians select the correct dosage and duration of drugs, thus preventing deaths due to overdose.
The health system is also turning its focus to making opioid use safer for patients who require high doses of the medication by enrolling them in pain management programs, regularly screening them, and prescribing reversal agents.