Posted By Mohammad Sadat On July 28, 2022

Fentanyl Crisis – How an EHR Can Help


One of the leading causes of drug overdoses today is fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine. Last year alone, 107,375 people died from a drug overdose in the United States. 67% of those deaths were from synthetic opioids. Unfortunately, this number has a higher percentage among the African-American and Indigenous communities. 

The real issue with fentanyl is that it is extremely potent and lethal, even in small doses – only two milligrams is considered a lethal amount. It is commonly mixed with drugs like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, and opioid-based drugs such as oxycodone, resembling prescription medication. 

With the rise of several behavioral and mental health illnesses, many individuals are going to the streets to self-prescribe medication. This is an opportunity for dealers and manufacturers to capitalize on, as fentanyl is cheaper and easier to produce and mix in with the products their customers are after. 

How can an EHR assist? 

Talking to patients and jotting down any relevant history is one of the first steps in screening a patient. The purpose is to understand what your patients are going through, to see if they are at risk of self-medicating or if they have a history of doing it already, and are prone to an overdose.

An Electronic Health Record (EHR) system can help your providers with the battle against drug overdoses by incorporating tools for screenings and evaluation. It can also assist you by providing a complete overview of the patient’s history. One of the great benefits of using an EHR with an implemented Psychiatrist Evaluation Scale is that it can give insight into any behavioral health illnesses a client is prone to. This can help clinics provide the proper care a client needs, or point them in the proper direction. 

Your EHR can also assist you with referral services and patient follow-up to make sure your clients get the help of outside providers when appropriate. Tools such as automated messaging via text, email, or phone calls for reminders can also assist your clients to get to their appointments. 

Behavioral Health EHR apps can be smoothly integrated with Public Health and primary care apps, providing a patient with an integrated whole-body level of care. If a treatment plan is required, an EHR makes it efficient and seamless to follow along with your patient’s goals, tracking and plotting every data point. Forms are synced to avoid duplicate entries and can be viewed by multiple users allowing for interoperability

Furthermore, EHRs with embedded progress notes and telehealth services, especially for group telehealth, is very helpful in substance abuse treatment. Telehealth can alleviate Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) factors for clients. SDOH includes economic opportunity, housing, education, food insecurity, transportation, neighborhood safety, and environment. Telehealth for individual or group sessions is particularly helpful for transportation challenges.

Understanding these factors will not only assist healthcare providers in delivering the proper care needed for clients but also make it more accessible for them. 

What can clinics do? 

Battling drug overdoses, specifically caused by fentanyl, requires a team effort. Public health professionals, healthcare providers, policymakers, and communities need to make a joint effort in preventing overdoses. This is a concept we will see in the near future as Public Health 3.0 becomes the new standard. 

Clinics, however, can support overdose prevention by expanding the distribution of fentanyl test strips and syringe service programs, and continuing education efforts about substance abuse while raising awareness of a growing epidemic. Some providers are also prescribing at-risk clients an overdose-reversing agent known as naloxone. 

As the rates of drug overdoses continue to increase in alarming numbers, it is imperative to provide patients with the proper solutions to help prevent an overdose, and that begins with providing Public Health and Behavioral Health clinics with an EHR that can assist them. Support is always there when using an EHR, whether it’s through the implementation of tools or training on how to better use the system – giving clinics and health care providers the confidence needed to give patients the proper treatment and care needed. 

Additional Resources:

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration national helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
  • National Suicide Hotline: 9-8-8.

About Patagonia Health, Inc.

Patagonia Health is a living Electronic Health Record (EHR) software designed to meet the complex needs and desired health outcomes of Public Health and Behavioral Health organizations. Our federally certified, easy-to-learn platform includes integrated practice management and billing software so you get one end-to-end solution. Employee-owned and organically grown, our mission is to support your business with software and service that allows you to provide your patients with the care they deserve. If you’d like more information about our solutions, contact us today.

About Mohammad Sadat

Mohammad is a Marketing Associate at Patagonia Health, an Electronic Health Records (EHR) software company serving the Public and Behavioral Health sector. He produces creative and written content to support healthcare IT.