Bloomington, MN – A Minnesota physician who is helping to lead the charge against the epidemic of opioid addiction both locally and nationally spoke at SFM’s all-employee meeting on Wednesday, October 12.
Dr. Chris Johnson, M.D. talked about the rise and extent of the crisis, and how insurers can work together with medical providers and government officials to turn it around.
Johnson chairs the Minnesota Department of Human Services Opioid Prescribing Workgroup, serves on the board of directors for Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing. He practiced full-time emergency medicine at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, for 12 years and currently works in the Allina Urgent Care System.
From 2000-2014, more than 189,000 Americans died from accidental opiate prescription overdoses, Johnson said, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
He explained that overdose deaths are just the tip of the “iceberg of misery” stating that for every overdose death, there are many more people visiting emergency rooms, abusing the drugs, or going through drug treatment programs to break their dependency.
While evidence mounts against prescribing the drugs for non-terminal patients with non-acute pain, hospitals and physicians still face pressure to do so due to licensure requirements, patient satisfaction ratings and limited time with patients, he said. For that reason, Johnson said he believes the healthcare industry alone cannot reverse the opioid painkiller abuse epidemic. He called on regulators, politicians and insurers to use their power to help.
SFM has been proactively working with physicians since 2014 to wean claimants off opioid painkillers. The company has been successful helping 34 percent of claimants taking opioids discontinue use, and has seen a 39 percent decrease in claimants taking more than 120 milligrams morphine equivalent dosage (MED) per day from 2015 to 2016.
“Many claimants have thanked us for helping them get their lives back by freeing them of their dependency on opioid painkillers,” said SFM Director of Medical Services Ceil Jung. “We’re not just doing this for cost savings, we’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do to help people have a high quality of life.”
Source: SFM Mutual