Health IT Now Launches Opioid Safety Alliance to Advance Technology-Enabled Solutions to the Opioid Crisis

First-of-its-kind working group seeks to advance a tech-centric policy agenda on Capitol Hill; slated to testify before FDA on January 30th

 WASHINGTON, DC (January 25, 2018): Health IT Now – a broad-based coalition of patient groups, provider organizations, employers, and payers supporting health information technology to improve patient outcomes – announced today the launch of its Opioid Safety Alliance. The first-of-its-kind working group, comprised of Health IT Now (HITN) members and non-members alike, is dedicated to advancing technology-enabled solutions to combat the scourge of opioid misuse.
The launch of HITN’s Opioid Safety Alliance comes at a time when drug overdoses have now claimed more lives in a single year than car crashes, gun violence, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic at their respective peaks. The threat of opioid misuse has received heightened attention on Capitol Hill, including the 2016 passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and last year’s public health emergency declaration from the White House. However, until now, there lacked a unified, multi-stakeholder advocacy effort from the health IT community to drive solutions that prevent abuse while promoting legitimate access to needed medications.
Leading member organizations of the Opioid Safety Alliance include the Association of Behavioral Health and Wellness, Brain Injury Association of America, Centerstone, Chapman University School of Pharmacy, CoverMyMeds, eRx Network, IBM, Intermountain Healthcare, McKesson, National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs, Netsmart, Oracle, RelayHealth, and Walgreens. Health IT Now’s existing membership list can be found here.
The working group will begin its advocacy efforts immediately, including providing testimony at the Food & Drug Administration’s January 30th meeting of the Opioid Policy Steering Committee.

Opioid Safety Alliance members will advocate for reforms that include:

  • Enacting a Facilitator Model for Patient Safety: Opioid Safety Alliance members believe that more must be done to ensure clinicians have a full, accurate picture of a patient’s medical history when prescribing or dispensing opioids. The Facilitator Model for Patient Safety would reflect the solution formulated by the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) to ensure that information flowing to providers, pharmacists, and state databases is easily-accessible, secure, and available in real-time – even when a patient attempts to fill a prescription across state lines. This information will also facilitate getting people with opioid abuse disorder the treatment help they need.
  • Supporting funding to upgrade PDMP technology: While the funding provided to combat the opioid crisis under 2016’s Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act is a worthy start, Opioid Safety Alliance members call upon Congress to provide additional funding specifically for PDMP enhancements, including allowing interoperability across states. Smart, targeted investments towards this objective today will pay dividends in the future, both in terms of lives rescued from the threat of overdose and dollars saved.
  • Ensuring clinician access to substance abuse information: Congress must break down silos in patients’ medical records so that all information – including substance abuse history – is available to healthcare providers (so-called 42 CFR Part 2 reform). Currently, record sharing requirements under federal law restrict provider access to addiction records and prevent clinicians from having complete information needed for safe, effective, and coordinated treatment. Opioid Safety Alliance members support aligning laws governing addiction records with HIPAA requirements to improve access and ensure providers are not left with incomplete information when making prescribing decisions.
  • Expanding treatment options: The Opioid Safety Alliance will work to fully leverage telehealth and digital virtual peer support programs to provide substance use disorder treatment options via technology-enabled care. Too often, stigma prevents treatment. Virtual care fundamentally alters this dynamic. Congress should reimburse innovative care delivery models in Medicare and Medicaid, and the administration should knock down regulatory barriers to providing treatment virtually.
  • Testing emerging technologies: Emerging technologies and standards have shown promise in securing the supply chain in other sectors. The Opioid Safety Alliance will urge Congress and the administration to explore options to use emerging technologies to protect distribution.

Opioid Safety Alliance leaders released the following statements:
“Each day, the scourge of drug overdoses puts an estimated 175 Americans in a grave, with the greatest share of those fatalities coming directly from prescription opioid misuse. This is a public health emergency, yes, but for the health IT community, it must also be a call to action,” said Health IT Executive Director Joel White. “Opioid Safety Alliance members have coalesced around bold, actionable solutions that bring the full force of technology to bear in solving this crisis. After all, opioid misuse is a 21st-century epidemic and it demands forward-thinking, 21st-century solutions. Together, we are fighting to strengthen our network of prescription drug monitoring programs with a facilitator that transmits information securely, in real-time, and captures data from across state lines. We are also working to reform privacy laws that, for too long, have kept doctors in the dark by isolating patients’ addiction records from the rest of their medical history. Already, the Opioid Safety Alliance is engaging lawmakers and regulators to discuss the difference these solutions will make, both in reduced costs and saved lives. We are ready to be part of the solution and are betting that Washington is ready to listen.” 

“Since 2000, more than 300,000 Americans have died from opioid-related overdoses. Each of those people have a name and each name has a story. In our 60 years as a community-based mental health and addiction services provider, we have seen the toll of opioid misuse on patients and families in personal and up-close ways, and we know the stakes couldn’t be higher. The technology-enabled reforms proposed by Health IT Now’s Opioid Safety Alliance will not only offer new paths to recovery for those suffering from an opioid-related addiction, but also carry the potential to help intervene before addiction sets in. We are pleased to be part of this first-of-its-kind multi-stakeholder effort,” said David Guth, Chief Executive Officer, Centerstone.

“The national opioid crisis has escalated into an epidemic that demands action. Walgreens firmly believes that addressing this crisis requires all parties to play a role in finding a solution. Our safe medication disposal program has collected more than 155 tons of unwanted medications. In joining the Health IT Now Opioid Safety Alliance we further expand our effort to work with leading organizations to advance health care and most importantly save lives as we advocate for enhancements in the way medications are prescribed,” said Ed Kaleta, Vice President of Federal Government Relations and U.S. Public Policy, Walgreens.

“The development of a prescription safety alert system that would provide real-time, clinical alerts to pharmacists and prescribers would be a powerful tool in the fight against prescription drug addiction,” said Kelly Wygal, Vice President, McKesson Specialty Health. “We are proud to be part of this coalition advocating for innovative solutions to help curb the nation’s opioid epidemic.”
“The opioid epidemic is a critical public health issue plaguing our nation. ABHW and our member health plans support reforming 42 CFR Part 2 to allow for the appropriate sharing of patient information, specific to addiction, which is essential to help ensure persons with opioid use disorder and other substance use disorders receive the safe, effective care they need. ABHW is also committed to expanding access to telemedicine services which would increase treatment options available to individuals with an opioid use disorder. We are pleased to be a member of the Opioid Safety Alliance and look forward to addressing the opioid crisis alongside consumers, public health officials, employers, Congress, the Administration, and local and community providers until we eradicate this epidemic,” said Pamela Greenberg, MPP, President and CEO, Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness.

“In 2016 alone, more than 11.5 million Americans ages 12 and older reported misuse of prescription opioids. This is a crisis that is ripping apart families, claiming innocent lives, and causing a national public health emergency. Oracle is bringing its track record of innovation to combat this epidemic by assisting states like Massachusetts and Illinois to enhance their ability to connect with their constituents on this issue, speed treatment and results. For example, identifying treatment centers that meet an individual’s unique needs. Our team looks forward to working with Health IT Now’s Opioid Safety Alliance to develop and advocate for actionable solutions,” said Bob Nevins, Director of Health and Human Services Strategy, Oracle.

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