Despite growing awareness of the dangers around opioid overuse, 30% of all people in large employer plans still receive an opioid prescription every year. That is a rate that far exceeds what evidence-based medicine would suggest is appropriate.
One of the root causes for this systemic over-prescribing is a severely dysfunctional primary care system, riddled with poor incentives that drive short visits, and flawed patient satisfaction rating systems that incentivize writing a script and getting the patient out the door. Unfortunately, evidence shows that after seven days of opioid use, one in six people will become addicted.
While we should fight to enact systemic change within our broken U.S. healthcare model, providers can take steps today to help those currently suffering from opioid use disorders. Value-based primary care (VBPC) is a more proactive care model that ensures those suffering from opioid addiction receive the proper attention and treatment. Providing lifelong coverage of treatment for this chronic medical condition is critical to getting patients the care they need, as long as they need it.
Doctors Need Addiction Training
The best employer-provided health plans cover the latest developments in evidence-based treatments, including physical therapy, a successful alternative for issues commonly mistreated with opioids and non-evidence-based orthopedic procedures. Leaders in primary care not only provide outstanding primary care, but their physicians are also board-certified in addiction medicine. Unfortunately, many doctors these days have received almost no training on addiction and substance abuse during their time in medical school (https://bit.ly/2BnHePa).
Unlike traditional FFS primary care, innovative care centers such as Kentucky’s Bluegrass Family Wellness, which places an emphasis on fostering patient/physician partnerships, works to spend adequate time with patients to provide comprehensive care, including wellness advice and counseling. They also offer medication-assisted therapy, which evidence shows is currently the best long-term treatment for opioid use disorders.
By helping reinvigorate primary care for those enslaved by opioid use disorders, this approach solves what is arguably the single biggest failing of the U.S. healthcare system.