Chronic pain management is a public and private health concern with significant increases in the use of opioids for pain relief. Noticeably, as discussed in the daily papers and 24 hours news, there is a corresponding growth in the number of opioids prescribed in the U.S. and the overdose from those drugs.1,2,3
Family physicians, clinicians, clinicians, psychologists, and other care providers play a vital role in balancing patients’ pain management needs with the risk of drug misuse and abuse.
And to help support these efforts, there are a number of strategies that are needed to follow, tied with technology, to best manage its overwhelming issue and crisis. Five of these strategies are: 1) Medication Management; 2) Patient Monitoring; 3) Prescription tracking; 4) Communication; and, 5) Reporting.
Patients need help managing their post-surgical pain and providers want to help. Using technology to enable virtual conversations with the patient at home, to help manage their transitions to over-the-counter medications for pain, is critical to helping reduce addiction.
Opioid medication as part of a pain management program is patient-specific, meaning a patient engagement platform solution cannot be one-size-fits-all. In this way, Clinicians can automate dialogue with the patient/guardian as to the administration of medication - the dosage, frequency (and side effects if any). It provides a channel where patient’s expectations for outcomes are managed, and where clinicians can provide support including other therapies to augment treatment plan.
When medication and treatment plans are managed through patient engagement with the proper protocols in place, the platform can assist in detecting and preventing abuse, thereby helping to prevent addiction.
Monitoring of a patient under opioid medications is not just about checking adherence to drug protocols as set forth by the health care provider. It involves other needs that are specific to that patient's condition(s).
When the patient is in pain, perhaps requiring another dose of medication, and the clinician is engaged with the patient (either in real-time or automated) through a communications platform, courses of actions can be communicated and prompted. If this action must be more immediate, based on the clinician’s rules and procedures, the platform can initiate an automated process to help the clinician determine if the patient requires a blood test or other diagnostics. Communication protocols can also be set up to confirm that the patient is taking his/her medication and side effects if any.
Other engagement can include verification (or suspicion) the patient is taking other drugs (illicit or prescribed), or if he/she is selling some of their medication. The parameters of the engagement as part of patient monitoring are down to the clinicians to set, serving the patient’s particular needs as well as the health provider’s.
Accessing a patients' pharmaceutical database to monitor their medication history allows clinicians to compare their knowledge of the patient with what they might be doing such as seeing another physician or emergency room. These visits, being a means that a patient engagement platform can send a red flag on opioid abuse. It helps address the issue of drug diversion by ensuring monitoring proper dispensation and management of prescription drugs and medication.
Ultimately, communication and trust of the communication is imperative for any patient engagement platform to be effective. Reducing barriers and allowing patients to communicate however they wish, using text messaging, emails, or any other form of digital communication mean everyone involved in a patient's care can be kept easily in the loop. Key is integrating the health care providers in a multidisciplinary care team-based approach.
Not only does it put everyone on the same page during the delivery of care for a patient, but it allows for coordinated responses and intervention, keeping everyone informed of the treatment plan.
Ensuring that the on-going connective links between the patient, provider, and counselor are entirely connected helps in confirming process and closure when solving a patient situation.
A patient engagement platform gathers patient-generated or wearable generated data and can collate that data through real-time collection and examination tying in latest AI and predictive modeling tools. Based on the clinicians' rules, it can be set to record, monitor and report a range of self-appraisals and patterns.
It can be used to integrate and index multiple data elements into a comparative score to recognize and track changes and crisis events for decision-making, which helps maintain a patient's compliance to treatment goals.
To ensure the full range of a client's short and long-term medication management goals are accomplished, through a clinicians rule set, early detection of substance abuse and addiction is paramount. And where addiction or drug abuse is already an issue, there must be a way to plug loopholes.
This is where a platform can provide a centralized system for gathering a patient's health data, information and other records. It can both keep and pull medical records and can raise red flags for potential anomalies and/or inconsistencies as the clinicians and even patients may desire.
A patient engagement platform can pull and add data to electronic health records, so over-prescribing, or multiple-prescriptions, can be more easily cross-checked, detected and managed.
As mentioned in my presentation at the opioid tech briefing last year at the US Congress, “...for patients in healthcare, particularly dealing with substance abuse, engagement is really paramount. If you don’t have the patient, the provider, the pharmacist, and clinicians all engaged, many great solutions fall flat.”
Make patient engagement a vital part of pain management and treatment plans. #BeLifeWIREd.