Healthentic Blog

Updates from Seattle

How employers can help curb the nationwide epidemic of opioid abuse

Fueled by a mounting body of irrefutable evidence on the opiate abuse epidemic, debates and news media coverage have reached buzz level. In the past two months alone, there have been Congressional subcommittee meetings on opioid abuse, state opioid abuse task forces and governors signing into law measures to help curb opiate dependency.

Hearings and laws are a step in the right direction, but employers remain uniquely positioned to take action now to help at-risk employees and get more health for less money. Our recent white paper study Opiate Abuse Is Costing Your Company contains some eye-opening facts:

  • Misuse of opioid drugs costs employers $25.6 billion in annual loses due to missed days at work and lost productivity.
  • A review of four years of data from our Population Health Dashboard (PhD) reveals just 13 percent of those with opioid prescriptions have abuse issues, but they are responsible for a whopping 92 percent of employer’s costs.
  • Abusers cost employers significantly more in health care costs than other employees, an average of $10,627 more annually. Some of the workforce population health data tools we offer can help employers more strategically direct resources to prevention/education programs. These are better, and more economical, alternatives to the increased costs caused by opiate abuse. For employers to address opioid abuse and dependence:
  • Understand and insist upon conservative prescribing guidelines for pain treatment for all participating providers in your medical, workers’ compensation, and occupational health programs.
  • As mentioned above, it’s important to evaluate and know who is at risk in your specific covered population. We’ve got a tool that allows you to review claims data and identify potential issues, then pivot and run a cost-effective, HIPAA-compliant campaign to understand the issues and get people the help they need.
  • Educate employees about the risks of opioid drug use to avoid misuse in the first place, and increase understanding about proper disposal of unused medications. There are ways to do this without being accusatory.
  • Increase and ensure confidential access to help and treatment when an employee finds that they are dependent on opioids. These programs not only save employers money in the long run, they’re good for morale, and retaining employees is beneficial to you. It’s time to seize this unique opportunity to address the epidemic through relationships with medical providers, employee education and availability of confidential treatment programs.