More than 130 people in the U.S. die of an opioid overdose every day. Some of the people struggling with addiction were prescribed opioids for the first time through the health insurance provided by their employers.
Now one healthcare company is trying to help employers address the crisis head on by using data to create practical solutions. First Choice Health (FCH), a provider-owned healthcare system in the western United States, took data collected by the Bree Collaborative, a Washington State-based workgroup convened in 2017 to help implement opioid prescribing guidelines, and compared it with pharmacy claims data to determine if an employer’s workforce has an opioid problem and, if so, determine the severity of the problem. Their new program identifies individuals who are at risk and offers them confidential assessments, assistance, and education to fight back against addiction or potential addiction and its impact on health or job performance.
For example, the program recognized a high-risk group as anyone who has been prescribed opioids together with sedatives for more than 60 days within a three-month period, a potentially deadly combination. Being able to pinpoint that risk group means healthcare case managers can reach out and discuss risks, use, and treatment options, including alternative pain management or counseling. The entire program is confidential, so you don’t need to worry about your boss finding out.
“We were cognizant of the devastating opioid epidemic that’s been striking the country, and it’s a situation that required all hands on deck,” said Dr. John Robinson, FCH’s chief medical officer, in an email to Fast Company. “The fight against the opioid epidemic needs all the help it can get. When a company’s workforce has an opioid problem, it affects their job performance, their absenteeism, and the other employees around them on a personal level.”
According to the CDC, the economic burden of prescription opioid misuse in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.