Data Analytics and the Fight Against Opioid Abuse

The opioid epidemic in this country has gained a lot of attention in recent months.  Its deadly effects are making their way into almost every news cycle across the country.  A recent report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) contains some very staggering statistics, and an on-going pattern in the rise of American deaths related to prescription opioids.  The report cites over 183,000 deaths attributable to prescription opioid overdoses since 1999.  The number of which has quadrupled in that 16-year timeframe.

In addition to the destruction of lives and families that this crisis is leaving in its wake, the opioid epidemic is also costing the country billions of dollars. In fact, a study by the CDC published in the October 2016 issue of the journal Medical Care cited an annual estimated US economic burden of $78.5B. This figure is comprised of health care costs, substance abuse treatment, criminal justice system costs, and lost productivity – with over $28B coming squarely from health care and substance abuse treatment costs alone.
The government has funded several important studies, and provided a great deal of grants and funding into treatment and prevention strategies.  However, many states are struggling with how best to utilize this funding and achieve the greatest impact.  A major focus of funding has been towards treatment programs and increased availability of Naloxone to help prevent further deaths.  

This funding of treatment and overdose prevention is completely necessary at this point in the crisis. Unfortunately, if we do not tackle the root causes of addiction simultaneously, then we are essentially allowing this crisis to grow and may soon have a larger population of opioid addicts to treat.  This in turn will result in more deaths and more societal costs.

It is imperative that we identify and adopt prevention strategies that can target the root causes of addiction.  Data analytics can be a tremendous ally in these efforts.  Data analytics provides the necessary tools for understanding the systemic problems that need to be addressed within this epidemic. Further, data analytics can help inform the prevention strategies and follow-up services that will truly allow us to fight this massive societal problem.  For example, data driven analyses provide the ability to deep dive into claims and prescription data to identify and monitor:

  • Patients whose prescription history and trends place them at high risk for addiction, allowing for proactive prevention services to be put into place;

  • The efficacy of prevention and treatment programs put into place;

  • Providers whose prescribing history indicates a need for training on the dangers of opioid abuse; 

  • Data that shows members potentially filling prescriptions at multiple pharmacies within suspicious timeframes; and,

  • Patients and providers whose prescription history indicates the potential for fraudulent activity.

We can look at data to identify suspicious prescription behavior that leads to investigations and criminal prosecutions that curb access to addictive drugs.  Further, we can analyze prescription volume and dosage amounts that are more conducive to addiction and develop more specific guidelines.  This data can then be used to proactively train providers on potentially dangerous treatments.  Data analytics provides a number of important use cases for combatting prescription abuse.

We can also use data analytics to identify at risk individuals and populations. Data can be monitored at the individual level to identify folks at-risk for addiction based on a number of attributes, or aggregated to look at geographic areas and populations with higher risk factors.  These results can be used to work with an agency to develop specific prevention and treatment programs, and insure that resources are lined up appropriately with the individuals and communities that need them most.

Public Consulting Group (PCG), in partnership with Pulselight, offers comprehensive data analytics and follow-up services to assist programs in identifying and understanding the underlying causes of their opioid crisis related burdens.  Our offering also includes a suite of audit, investigation, and training services that can be deployed based on the findings to ensure results and strengthen prevention and treatment efforts.  

We are proud to be able to help state agencies identify and investigate bad actors, proactively train providers with evidence based data, and help them tackle the issues that are contributing to this growing problem.

Interested in learning more about the PCG/Pulselight Opioid Data Analytics Solution? Click here  for additional information.