Taking a grassroots approach to fighting the opioid epidemic

For many physicians, developing an ongoing relationship with patients is a rewarding part of the job. That’s not the case for emergency physicians like me — we’d rather not see the same patients over and over again, especially those with substance use disorders, who are some of the highest users of emergency care.

I can vividly recall the first time that the opioid epidemic became real to me. One day in September 2011, I was working in the emergency department when a 23-year-old patient arrived in cardiac arrest, apparently caused by an opioid overdose. My team did what it could, but we could not resuscitate the patient. When I talked with his family, they told me that multiple care providers had written him prescriptions for pain medications.

That got me wondering if this tragedy could have been prevented if his providers had been able to easily and securely coordinate his care. Could having that kind of information have prevented the ridiculous number of prescriptions written for this patient?

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