We're all aware of the opioid epidemic in the United States.
We've seen the tragic photos of lives ripped apart. We've scanned the news describing the huge dollar amounts committed to resolving the problem. And we've experienced the complexities of treating an opioid abuser as healthcare providers.
But the truth is that our approach to care, treatment, and policy around this disease is lagging behind the realities of the epidemic. And as healthcare providers, we play one of the most important roles in preventing and treating the disease -- and caring for its sufferers.
Certainly, there are bright spots when it comes to the opioid epidemic. As Fierce Healthcare reports, “Data from the Medicare Part D program show fewer beneficiaries are receiving high amounts of opioids, but a watchdog agency says usage 'remains concerning,' while urging insurers to further restrict at-risk patients with lock-in programs. However, 1 in 3 Part D beneficiaries still received at least one prescription opioid, and the overall level of opioid use 'continues to raise concerns.'"
Chemical dependency is not solved by other chemicals. In the long term, many changes are needed and extensive, ongoing support is vital. This includes the extreme burden placed on the providers themselves. Dependency is not an inpatient disease. It is not an outpatient disease. It is not family therapy. It is not joblessness, nor hopelessness. It is pervasive and knows no time schedule. It is difficult to treat for the provider, and a lifelong challenge for the patient.
If there was ever a time and need for universal healthcare collaboration across the entire spectrum of providers, patients and families, it is now, with this disease.
A single episode of failed access, of telephone tag, or of failure to educate –– results in the crashing down of years of rehabilitation. But who has the time or resources or skills to be available everywhere, for everyone, all the time?
A dramatic, gripping, thoughtful, and open Perspective piece in the New England Journal of Medicine by Audrey M. Provenzano, M.D., M.P.H., once read, becomes nearly haunting. She describes her feelings about caring for a patient with addiction:
“Already overwhelmed, I did not want to take on patients with needs that I did not know how to meet.” She finishes the essay with a sentiment common to all who practice medicine: “I wish that I’d listened more closely. I wish that I had not been afraid.”
Dr. Provenzano articulates beautifully the loneliness and isolation a healthcare provider can feel in treating such a complex, multifaceted disease. Yes, a tool like iClickCare can smooth and facilitate the healthcare collaboration that bring many types of services and providers into one case. But perhaps equally importantly, a tool like iClickCare can alleviate the loneliness and isolation that the providers themselves feel. And that's not just a "nicety." That's a core part of ensuring sustainable care for the patients they are treating.
As a company, we're finding ways of contributing to the opioid epidemic, using hybrid strore-and-forward telemedicine to facilitate the complex care needed. And as fellow healthcare providers, we certainly stand with the providers on the front lines of navigating this care every day.
If you're facing complex patients or opioid abuse in your practice, try iClickCare as one of your tools: