Stroudwater Associates, a leading source of strategic, operational, financial, and clinical advisory services for rural and community healthcare, published a white paper providing background on the opioid epidemic and explaining how primary care practices and clinics are an important part of the solution.
During the initial onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, quarantines, business closures, and a shift in focus to address the rising number of COVID-19 cases significantly reduced access to behavioral health and opioid management services in many communities.
The white paper, Opioid Overdoses Accelerate 30% During Pandemic: Primary Care Practices Are Integral to the Solution, explores how almost half of all dispensed opioid prescriptions come from primary care clinics and practices, making primary care the center of both the problem and the solution. In this context, improving the management of long-term prescribed opioids should be a priority not only for physicians but also hospitals, Accountable Care Organizations, and health plans, especially as opioid overdoses have continued to climb since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the staggering numbers related to opioid misuse and overdose, the white paper offers hope through the Six Building Blocks program, a solution for primary care physicians to implement consistent, effective, guideline-driven care for chronic pain patients on long-term opioid therapy. Primary care clinics and practices that have implemented this program have seen a decline in the number of patients being prescribed opioids and providers and staff have developed a systematic, evidence-based approach to managing chronic pain patients.
The Six Building Blocks Program was developed by a physician-led team from the University of Washington Department of Family Medicine and the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute. A clinician-led team at Stroudwater Associates is assisting healthcare organizations to understand and implement the Six Building Blocks Program. The team includes Louise Bryde, MHA, BSN, RN; Lindsay Corcoran, MHA; and Carla Wilber, DNP, RN, NE-BC.
“This program is key for primary care clinics to combat the opioid epidemic. There is clinical data showing the benefits of the program including a decrease in the number of patients on long-term opioid therapy and a reduction in the percentage of patients on high dose therapy,” said Stroudwater Associates Managing Director Jeff Sommer. “Our clinical team is here and wants to help primary care practices across the nation implement this program and face this issue head-on.”
The failure to regulate or standardize opioid production, distribution and prescribing has led to the rise in drug addiction and overdose, as opioids are among the top prescribed medications in the United States.
“Anyone who is prescribed opioids faces the risks of misuse, addiction, and overdose,” said Sommer. “One in four long-term opioid therapy patients experience addiction and now is the time to make a change. Physicians need to understand the importance of implementing an opioid management program and how this can positively affect their patients and the ongoing epidemic.”