Upgrading Patient Identification Can Combat the Opioid Crisis

Upgrading Patient Identification Can Combat the Opioid Crisis

Oct 2, 2020, 4:35:09 AM Tech and Science

Opioid abuse has been a constant problem for the U.S. healthcare system for years now. When opioid medications were introduced, it was said that they would help caregivers and patients by improving healthcare outcomes. However, many didn’t count on the fact that it might create problems such as opioid addictions, leading to medical identity theft, overdoses, and even deaths of the addicts as well as their newborns. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a sharp rise in opioid abuse cases. Let’s review some statistics associated with opioid abuse, where cases are happening now, why they usually happen, and how a proper patient identification process can help combat the opioid epidemic for healthcare providers.

The opioid epidemic is just one of the many problems

We’ve stated this more times than we can count – the U.S. healthcare system just doesn’t seem to catch a break. It has always been plagued with a number of serious problems. Expensive healthcare, lack of price transparency, lack of proper patient identification process, medical identity theft cases, healthcare data breaches, duplicate medical records – these are just some of the many issues faced by patients and caregivers. However, the opioid crisis is another significant issue that needs to be addressed – even during the pandemic, it’s getting worse. Thus, healthcare providers are not only facing the issues above, but they’re also fighting a pandemic as well as an epidemic. However, before getting into the current situation, let’s take a look at some stats.

The numbers show how serious the opioid epidemic is

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 130+ people died every day due to opioid overdoses, 10.3 million Americans misused prescribed opioids in 2018, and 2 million patients misused prescribed opioids the first time they received them from their doctor. 

However, the numbers have jumped significantly this year compared to 2019 in approximately 21 of the largest U.S. counties, according to The Wall Street Journal. Counties in California, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, and Ohio saw an increase in deaths caused by opioid overdoses. Moreover, Los Angeles County suffered an increase in overdoses by 48% within the first 6 weeks of the novel coronavirus pandemic when compared to the same period from last year. But why are the opioid cases considered an epidemic? 

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The opioid crisis in a nutshell

In the late 90s, opioids were pushed by pharmaceutical companies – ensuring that they were either less addictive or nonaddictive compared to other drugs available at that time – morphine, for instance. They stated that even the less addictive ones had no dangerous side-effects. This instilled doctors and physicians with confidence and they started prescribing them to patients. It created an epidemic that the U.S. healthcare system has been battling for decades now – and the rates are only increasing. But how do addicted patients get their hands on these drugs from hospitals?

Lack of a proper patient identification process leads to more cases

Patient identification, as previously mentioned, has been problematic for years now. The addicted patients can simply go back to their caregivers and demand more of the dangerous drugs, stating that this is the first time they’re requesting them – abusing their prescriptions. Since the caregivers don’t have a proper way to verify such statements (as an effect of the lack of patient identification), they have no other choice.

Also, addicts might lie regarding their information and present themselves as a different patient in order to get access to the drugs. One way they can do that is by committing medical identity theft – they assume the identities of others to receive the drugs. Thus, hospitals can better battle the opioid crisis if they make the patients go through a proper patient identification process.

Published by Salman Rashid

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