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The abuse of opioids is a serious problem in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found there were 28,000 deaths due to opioid overdose in 2014. This is the highest number since the organization began recording the data. Add this figure to the millions of Americans who use opioids for reasons beyond health benefits, and you’ll see why many medical professionals consider this an epidemic.

While there are numerous government and nonprofit programs designed to warn the public about the dangers of using opioids recreationally, it’s up to the healthcare industry to prevent easy access to the drugs. However, opioids are important pharmaceuticals for many patients, so new solutions have to ensure the wrong people don’t get prescriptions without limiting availability to those in need. This is where smarter decisions built on intelligent healthcare performance management are vital.

“Many opioid abusers doctor shop.”

Screening for problems
There are a variety of tactics people use to obtain drugs for illicit purposes. Many opioid abusers doctor shop – aka go from physician to physician trying to find a medical office that will provide them with prescription they desire. When a doctor turns down a candidate due to suspicion of criminal activities, it’s important he or she shares information to prevent the individual from getting opioids elsewhere.

HealthITAnalytics detailed how 49 states in the U.S. have drug management databases. Doctors can use this information to check for histories or other data that may help them recognize abusers from needy patients. Making these details easily available through personal computers and mobile devices helps physicians make decisions in the moment. A Cornell study found use of electronic drug monitoring in doctor’s offices reduced prescriptions by 30 percent.

Preventing overdoses
Having the information in place helps doctors make prescription decisions in real time. It’s not simply a matter of identifying who has tried to buy drugs in the past, however. Doctors should recognize who may be at risk for overdose in the future.

Doctors and hospitals with predictive modeling tools should be able to build profiles for drug abusers so they know to take extra care when prescribing opioids and when to turn down individuals completely. Healthcare IT News described how researchers collected information from private practitioners, federal authorities and nonprofit organizations to help medical professionals identify symptoms and keep an eye on red flags.

These solutions may deliver automated warnings in intelligent healthcare management systems while also providing a platform to record new findings. The more information available, the better equipped doctors are to prevent problems.