January 21, 2020
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5 Ways Healthcare Facilities Are Being Affected by the Opioid Crisis

How the Opioid Crisis Has Affected Hospitals, Clinics, and Other Healthcare Facilities

  • More Integration of Healthcare Services
  • Increased Complexity of Case Management
  • Busier Emergency Rooms
  • Higher Hospital Operating Costs
  • Better Collaboration Through Healthcare Technology

The current opioid epidemic has been going on since the late 1990s, and it is important to know about these top five ways healthcare facilities are being affected by the opioid crisis. Before the current epidemic, services for addiction were not typically provided within a hospital or health clinic; they were available at freestanding facilities dedicated to mental illness and substance use disorders. The high prevalence of opioid addiction and high overdose rate has changed how healthcare facilities serve people with addiction.

Related resource: Top 20 Health Administration and Healthcare Management Degree Programs Based on Overall Quality Measures

1. More Integration of Healthcare Services

Before the opioid crisis, hospitals and health clinics were not as integrated as they are today. Because an opioid addiction can affect every part of a person’s health, hospitals have had to change in order to integrate their services. A person with opioid addiction may need to see a cardiologist, neurologist, infectious disease specialist, and nephrologist during their stay.

2. Increased Complexity of Case Management

Management of people with addiction to opioids is complicated. Hospitals and health clinics used to not be involved in that type of case management. Now, hospital social workers often spend a lot of time coordinating the discharge of a person who was admitted for an opioid overdose. They may coordinate outpatient care, social services, drug treatment, housing, and follow-up medical care.

3. Busier Emergency Rooms

Between October 2017 and October 2018, more than 430,000 emergency room visits were for opioid overdoses. This data is from a survey of 647 hospitals across the United States. When emergency rooms get all of these overdose visits, people who are there for other emergencies have to wait longer. This has resulted in emergency departments that are overcrowded, have long wait times and have overburdened staff and facilities. For example, a person who comes into the emergency department for an opioid overdose may be sent for a CT scan, X-rays, lab work, respiratory evaluation, and other professional services.

4. Higher Hospital Operating Costs

The Recycle Intelligence Healthcare Media Center states that the cost of opioid overdose care amounts to more than $1.94 billion every year for hospitals. This is about 1 percent of all healthcare costs in the United States. Of those hospital costs, $632 million were incurred in the emergency department for patients who were treated and released. The remainder of the costs were for people who overdosed on opioids and had to be admitted for care.

5. Better Collaboration Through Healthcare Technology

According to the National Library of Medicine, another way that the opioid crisis has affected healthcare facilities is the improved collaboration of healthcare professionals through technology. Hospitals have had to improve their internal technology so that social workers, patient care advocates, admissions personnel, triage, physicians and nurses can all communicate within one system about the patient. The improved technology also improves the patient’s access to care, extends the availability of providers and provides better protection for the patient’s confidential information.

Every aspect of healthcare has been affected by the opioid crisis. Hospital administrators, social workers, and clinicians are all trying to coordinate their services in order to provide appropriate care to affected individuals. With the knowledge of these five ways healthcare facilities are being affected by the opioid crisis, a family member, healthcare worker, administrator or government employee could start working on policies to lessen the burden of addiction on the American healthcare system and its facilities.