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October 28, 2017
The Antidote to the Opioid Epidemic is Rooted in Data
By: Michael Petersen

Opioid addiction, abuse and resulting overdose deaths have no boundaries. It affects every state, region, race, gender, age and socio-economic class. The multifaceted causes and impacts are what make it so hard to combat. But what if there were a way to combine these factors to create a broader picture of the problem? That’s where comprehensive data and analytics come into play. It brings together the risk factors, behaviors, patterns and profiles of those affected by and those treating opioid addictions to inform more effective intervention, education and prevention strategies.

Participants at the 2017 Harvard Health and Human Services Summit explored these issues in great depth. The common theme was the need to develop robust ecosystems for data sharing and collaboration. If we are to have any chance of bending the curve, a new disruptive approach that uses data to inform policy and interventions is needed. But it is also important to recognize that true progress does not come from data alone. Progress comes from how organizations collaborate across data silos and to operationalize actionable changes and deploy appropriate resources in order to make a difference in people’s lives.

Take the case of Kentucky. Last year the state reported, 1,404 people died of overdose—a 7.4 percent increase from 2015. It has one of the highest opioid-related death rates per capita in the country. But it’s not sitting idly by. The State’s health and human services agencies, along with a variety of private and non-profit organizations, said enough was enough and started working together to tackle the problem. They asked themselves, how can we reverse the negative outcomes if we don’t know what we are dealing with? So, they pooled their data sources together and analyzed the issues to get a better understanding of the six key questions of impact—who, what, when, where, why and how.

Based on these new insights and a disruptive mindset, they were able to set up improved drug monitoring systems, justify Medicaid expansion, increase funds for mental health treatment and lobby for the passage of legislation that imposed stiffer penalties for dealers and initiated the Harm Reduction Syringe Exchange Program (HRSEP). Data and analytics helped reduce the stigmas surrounding addiction and established contact with users who would not otherwise have interacted with the public health system.

By relying on a variety of available data sources to give more robust evidence and lag indicators of the situation at hand, the State can adjust in almost real time to make evidence-based decisions and deliver changes to programs more appropriately. Data insights are also being used to create prediction models that can help to mitigate or prevent further incidences of abuse.

Thanks to new technologies, it doesn’t require a lot of financial investments to gather and analyze data sets. And it doesn’t take years to start seeing outcomes. It basically requires the determination of stakeholders to collaborate, share data and coordinate intervention and prevention strategies. Advanced analytics, machine learning and predictive modeling can take it a step further by identifying the nature of the problem at a more granular level by providing a clear 360-degree view of the citizen in need.

By using data, agencies not only capture the factors and extent of the problem, but they can communicate the problem to justify resource allocation and program progress, bringing us one step closer to ending the opioid epidemic. But the benefits of using a data and analytics framework in health and human services are not confined to the opioid crisis. It can be used to inform solutions for obesity, diabetes, heart disease and any other health threats. It’s all a matter of building an ecosystem that embraces and facilitates data sharing for the greater good. For more information read our POV on how Advanced Analytics can be used to help stem the tide against opioid abuse.

At Accenture, we are committed to helping communities address acute societal issues like opioids by leveraging data and analytics. To find out more visit us at www.accenture.com

See this post on LinkedIn: The Antidote to the Opioid Epidemic is Rooted in Data

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