Driving Toward Solutions: Providers Map Strategies to Reduce Opioid Deaths

Susan Anthony

Leaders in physician groups and health systems weigh approaches to reduce opioid overdose deaths by sharing successes and illuminating barriers.

August 2017
A straight road leading directly into an orange sunset.

Health systems are struggling to address the opioid epidemic now claiming the lives of nearly 2,000 Californians every year. Many systems are working to ensure safer opioid and controlled substance prescribing standards and to provide adequate access to treatment for opioid addiction. Yet, because each system tends to operate in isolation, optimal solutions and best practices are not known or shared.

To address the role of provider groups and to exchange ideas, CHCF convened high-level health system leadership (organizations such as medical groups, large community health centers, academic health systems and more) in a statewide meeting to share strategies and solutions in hopes of speeding the spread of ideas that work.

Addressing the opioid epidemic requires purposeful collaboration between different providers and health groups like those present at the meeting. With that in mind, participants offered ideas and strategies for improvement, and shared their experiences in tackling California's opioid crisis.

Some major themes in discussions at the event included:

  • Implementing guidelines: The launch of CDC and medical board guidelines led some medical systems to embed recommendations into electronic clinical decision support.
  • Data-driven risk stratification: By tracking opioid prescriptions through hospitals and pharmacies, some providers have created alerts that flag dangerous opioid use at an early stage and drive patients to the care they need.
  • Integrating CURES: The California Department of Justice described current efforts to create interoperability between California's prescription drug monitoring database (CURES) and electronic health records.
  • Behavioral health: Several groups described how they provide substance use disorder (SUD) patients easier access to mental health professionals to help them address their opioid misuse.
  • Buprenorphine: Participants shared their early experience with encouraging primary care providers to prescribe buprenorphine, and the challenges in integrating care.