Posted By Fuller Harvey On March 30, 2018

Opioid Crisis and Your EHR … a Follow-Up

Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis in America is so severe, we believe each must do what he or she can to wrestle the epidemic into submission, and as an EHR vendor, one of our abilities lies in using this very blog space to trumpet statistics and resources. So, although we addressed this topic last October, [see “3 Ways (+11 bonus) EHR Data Helps Calm the Opioid Crisis”], please join us now for a deeper and even more sobering look.

In the NEW YORK magazine article “The Poison We Pick”, author Andrew Sullivan reports these alarming statistics (broken out as bullets for greater impact beyond the prose style; all words below in italics are his):

  • More than 2 million Americans are now hooked on some kind of opioid, and
  • Drug overdoses from heroin and fentanyl in particular – claimed more American lives last year than were lost in the entire Vietnam War.
  • Overdoes deaths are higher than in the peak year of AIDS, and
  • Far higher than fatalities from car crashes. . .
  • Opioids will kill another 52,000 Americans this year alone –
  • And up to half a million in the next decade.
  • (Americans) consume 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone and 81 percent of its oxycodone.
  • We use an estimated 30 times more opioids than is medically necessary for a population our size.
  • Nationwide, between 1999 and 2011, oxycodone prescriptions increased sixfold.


Normally, one could say, “Put that in your hash pipe and smoke it,” – if the metaphor weren’t so close to the (deadly) home of this issue.

Moving beyond the personal front of ransacked homes and lives, the opioid crisis is ransacking the insurance industry and U.S. economy.  “The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reports, “The CDC estimates that prescription opioid misuse, opioid use disorder (OUD), and opioid overdose cost the U.S. economy over $78 billion in 2013 in the form of higher healthcare and substance use disorder treatment costs, excess criminal justice costs, and productivity losses borne by employers.” (“Healthcare Payer Strategies to Reduce the Harms of Opioids”; whitepaper, January 2017.)

Particularly for Behavioral Health  and Public Health agencies:  if you and your agency have not yet done the hard work to jump to a cloud-based EHR system, the fallout from the opioid crisis alone should be reason enough to get moving now.  We agree:  taking this leap is daunting and requires fortitude, but as countless customers on the other side of the EHR cloud can attest:  the landing is soft and so worth the effort.

In regards to the opioid crisis:  THIS IS WAR.  As Sullivan states, “The quantum leap in opioid use arrived by stealth.”  Behavioral Health and Public Health agencies cannot afford to allow this stealth bomber to annihilate its communities.  These agencies on the front lines, in particular need a stalwart work-horse/war-horse of a record and reporting system as their primary arsenal against the opioid foe.

Talk with other agencies who have battled before you to cross into the well-equipped command post of a cloud-based EHR.  Agencies who report “this billing system is so robust, the claims just auto-post,” or report that the simplicity of Patient Consent forms via a good EHR saves critical patient check-in time, (not to mention provider scanning time).

Choose an EHR that is federally compliant and will go into battle before you, behind you, and is in a support role all around you – and take back the territory served by your agency.

In the battle against opioid abuse, we have no time to lose – only lives.

About Fuller Harvey

Fuller is a creative consultant who is bringing her passion for connective, encouraging, and practical communication to Patagonia Health. She considers her greatest strength to be creating an adhesive environment where individuals are valued, supported and celebrated for the contributions they bring to the “team table” and where all communication -both within and without the company – has positive purpose and impact.