Healthcare Analytics, Population Health Management, Healthcare Big Data

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CDC Awards $28.6M for Big Data Analytics to Track Opioid Abuse

The CDC is furthering the fight against opioid abuse by doling out millions to improve state-level big data analytics capabilities.

Big data analytics and opioid abuse

Source: Thinkstock

By Jennifer Bresnick

- Improving the nation’s big data analytics capabilities is critical for success in the ongoing fight against opioid abuse at the state level, says the CDC, as the substance abuse epidemic continues to ravage communities on a massive scale.

With $28.6 million in new funding apportioned to 44 states and the District of Columbia, the CDC will use three new programs to enhance public health officials’ abilities to track, monitor, prevent, and treat individuals experiencing health and social issues related to substance abuse.

“Drug overdoses have dramatically increased over the last two decades in America,” said CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, MD. “This additional CDC funding to states, who are on the frontlines of the opioid overdose epidemic, is critical to help them scale up prevention efforts to fight this crisis and save lives.”

The Prescription Drug Overdose: Prevention for States initiative includes $19.3 million in funding for 27 states.  Awardees will use these funds, as well as $4.6 million in funds from the Data-Driven Prevention Initiative (DDPI), to expand their substance abuse prevention activities at a community level.  An additional 12 states will benefit from the DDPI grants.

Activities will include the use of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), messaging to communities about the impact of opioid abuse, and additional reviews of patient datasets, such as overdose fatality data, to better target preventive care efforts and patient management programs.

READ MORE: Addressing Opioid Abuse with Analytics, Population Health Strategies

Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin will take part in the Prescription Drug Overdose: Prevention for States initiative.

DDPI awardees include Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Washington, D.C.

The third program, the Enhanced State Opioid Overdose Surveillance (ESOOS) initiative, will provide $4.7 million to 32 states and the District of Columbia to support public health officials, including medical examiners and coroners, as they increase surveillance capabilities and analyze data related to opioid abuse.

“One piece of HHS’s five-point strategy for combating the opioid crisis is improving our understanding of the epidemic through better public health data,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, MD.

The plan also aims to boost the availability of overdose-reversing drugs, improve access to prevention, treatment, and recovery services, support ongoing research into pain management and addiction sciences, and disseminate more effective best practices for pain management.

READ MORE: Communities Tackle Opioid Abuse with EHRs, Population Health

Sharing in the ESOOS funding will be Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Washington, D.C., West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The influx of state funding from the CDC follows a number of similar activities from other federal stakeholders that are integrating big data analytics into their opioid abuse prevention and treatment efforts.

In April, HHS jumpstarted the state-level mission to reduce opioid misuse by disbursing $485 million to all 50 states and all US territories as part of its compliance with the 21st Century Cures Act. 

The legislation, signed into law during the last months of President Obama’s tenure in the White House, requires states to use the funding for many of the same activities as the new CDC grants: implementing prevention programs, training healthcare professionals to respond to opioid abuse more effectively, and expanding state-level analytics and PDMP programs to enhance visibility into the crisis.

And in August, the Department of Justice made data analytics the centerpiece of its newest plan to dissuade fraud and abuse within the opioid supply chain.

READ MORE: DOJ Leverages Big Data Analytics to Combat Opioid Fraud, Abuse

“I have created this unit to focus specifically on opioid-related health care fraud using data to identify and prosecute individuals that are contributing to this opioid epidemic,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the time.

“This sort of data analytics team can tell us important information about prescription opioids—like which physicians are writing opioid prescriptions at a rate that far exceeds their peers; how many of a doctor's patients died within 60 days of an opioid prescription; the average age of the patients receiving these prescriptions; pharmacies that are dispensing disproportionately large amounts of opioids; and regional hot spots for opioid issues.”

CMS has also released a number of resources and guidelines targeted to the healthcare provider community, including maps that help visualize Medicare opioid prescribing hotspots and an updated roadmap to reduce opioid misuse that integrates patient-centered strategies for managing high-risk individuals.

“CMS is committed to high quality care, including appropriate pain management,” the organization said in a January blog post. 

“In order to best fulfill that commitment, we need to modify trends in opioid prescribing, use, misuse, and overdose, and increase support services to help individuals recover from opioid use disorder, as well as provide the full spectrum of evidence-based practices for acute and chronic pain management.”

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