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    Use population health to fight substance abuse: Tips for MCOs


    Because of rising cases of substance abuse in the United States, namely opioids, the American College of Physicians (ACP) released a list of recommendations for the healthcare community in order to decrease addiction and abuse.

    The recommendations were released in a study published in the March 2017 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, and call for changes, including utilizing population health strategies, to identify and help patients who could be abusing prescription drugs.

    Researchers found that in 2014, 22.5 million people in the United States needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem, but only 18% received any treatment. In comparison, 77% of people with hypertension, 73% of people with diabetes, and 71% of people with major depression received treatment.

    The costs of untreated substance abuse are a huge drain on the healthcare system as well, the study reports. Hospitalizations for opioid use rose from nearly 302,000 to more than 520,000 from 2002 to 2012, and costs for such care quadrupled to $15 billion in 2012. Charges for hospitalization for opioid use disorder with serious infections also quadrupled over the same time period to $700 million, according to the researchers.

    Lessons for MCOs

    Nitin S. Damle, MD, MS, MACP, ACP's immediate past president, says that decriminalization and destigmatization of substance abuse will help society to view it as a chronic disorder. That shift would allow healthcare leaders the opportunity to create strategies and databases to help people.

    “We need to develop more behavioral health and substance use disorders therapists and facilities to care for these patients,” Damle says. “We also need to require insurance coverage for evidence-based treatment of substance use disorder, and support the prescription drug monitoring program on a national basis for prescribers.”

    The ACP also recommends a national prescription drug-monitoring program (PDMP), and encourages states to use standardized reporting through the federal National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Act.

    Next: How pop health data can help



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