Can Technology Help?

State and local governments collect a lot of health data, but as it turns out, there are many roadblocks to putting that data to its highest and best use. Building a bridge, however, could create the potential for its use in battling the U.S. opioid epidemic, which is taking its toll in every corner of the country, across all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. Just how could digging a little deeper into this data help to uncover the hidden facets of this epidemic?

Mining for Gold

Law enforcement, the healthcare sector, and human services collect a wide assortment of data when it comes to opioids, tracking sales through prescription drug monitoring programs, post-addiction treatment, overdoses, and deaths. While this data sometimes helps identify doctor shopping and over-prescribing, it does little to thwart addiction. Typically, little information is shared with other entities, or nationally, except as required by law. However in a few states, this data is being used for a higher purpose – compiled into a richer picture of the crisis in the hopes of taking control via a proactive, not reactive approach to the crisis – and neighboring states are taking notice.

Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery

In Indiana, the state recently rolled out an opioid ‘crime dashboard,’ compiling data on overdoses from area health professionals and forensic labs. Used to deploy law enforcement, it is helping deliver aid to the areas hardest hit, ensuring enough anti-opioid prescriptions on-hand to counter the effects of the drugs and save lives. Massachusetts is now engaging in a similar attempt with their own available data.

Stepping Things Up a Notch

Bridging the divide between states, technological firms are also stepping-in – and stepping things up in the communications arena, to join forces nationwide. Meeting in Portland for a panel discussion, companies such as Massachusetts-based company Biobot Labs, whose human waste analytics can determine where drugs are being abused in particular areas, are teaming-up with others such as Chicago-based Triggr, designer of data-driven, personalized addiction-recovery systems that combine a mobile app with human interaction to identify and thwart relapse, and looking to ways their diverse skill and data sets can contribute to fighting the epidemic. The end goal? Making the shift from thwarting fatal overdoses, to that of early detection and overdose prevention.

Tearing Down the Walls

As history has shown in this epidemic, simply collecting and storing relevant data is not enough. Data must be better analyzed and integrated to produce positive results. Future collaborations such as these will be integral in making impactful decisions and better allocating resources. Multi-stakeholder organizations – a joint committee or joint taskforce – will be key, as no network yet exists between state and local governments. Law enforcement, alongside the healthcare and IT arena must work together to breakdown current barriers, unifying – not isolating – via a cohesive strategy. Though this will be no small task, the sharing of such data on a national level is crucial. If the trend continues, tens-of-thousands of American lives could depend on it in the coming years.

About the Author: Anthony Sambucini is a founding principal and the Chief Executive Officer of ANS Solutions. Anthony specializes in bridging the goals of clinical innovation and business strategy that have helped propel ANS Solutions into a national leader in Pharmacotherapy Review Services for workers’ comp insurers and ANS Pharmacotherapy Review Program is the most advanced, results-oriented drug utilization review program in the industry. As a consultant to insurance carriers and attorneys, Anthony customizes services based on the particular needs of the client and oversees all activities related to business development and company operations. For more information about ANS Solutions visit http://ans-solutions.com/.

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The Position of Workers Compensation in 2017

With the election of a new president who is ushering in a new era for the government, the trickle-down effect to the workers’ compensation industry just might sweep you off your feet. Prepare yourself with the industry knowledge you need, and avoid being overtaken by the tsunami…

The 2017 Workers’ Compensation Industry Issues to Watch:

  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA)
    Like a rogue wave, changes to the ACA may pop-up with little notice. These changes will influence the industry, including claims frequency, claims shifting, and cost shifting if/when private insurance is lost by injured workers, potentially shifting the industry back into the role of “medical insurance for the uninsured.” Preparing for engagement and rapid response to proposed legislation will remain integral as ACA changes are ironed-out in the coming year.
  • Nationwide Physician Shortages
    America is projected to be short an estimated 12,000 to 31,000 primary care physicians by 2025, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Surgeons are also expected to be in short supply. Though effects will vary based on geographic location, coupled with population growth, the aging Baby Boom population, Affordable Care Act instability, and the nationwide opioid crisis, this single phenomena could converge in a myriad of issues within the workers comp industry.
  • Changes to the Workforce
    As the economic current in the U.S. changes, the manufacturing industry may re-emerge, detracting from what is currently a service-based economy. The mobile workforce will also continue to evolve, such as remote and telecommuting positions. Workforce changes aren’t simply labor-related, however, the aging American workforce across the country will also play a large role.
  • Prescription Drug Abuse
    The overuse and abuse of prescriptions drugs, particularly opioids, continues to be a turbulent issue in the industry, driving workers’ comp costs and leaving opposing forces facing-off at a line in the sand. As federal and state lawmakers continue to bandage this issue across the medical industry, claims management teams and attorneys will need to move forward in addressing this issue in claims, monitoring prescriptions, recommending “drug contracts,” and better engaging with physicians regarding the risks of abuse, where permitted. On the flipside of the drug abuse coin, the consequences of injured workers medical marijuana scripts influencing on-the-job risks will continue to be a sticky wicket.
  • Profit & Loss Scenarios
    Though the workers’ comp industry saw their first underwriting profits in 2013, the trend is not expected to continue. Falling rates and increasing exposures, particularly over the long term, point to a negative outlook overall, with combined ratios of 100% projected for the coming year. Medical providers still continue to increase reimbursement rates to offset costs from lackluster Medicare and Medicaid payments, and medical and pharmaceutical advancements increase the risk of loss. Maintaining proper reserves, conducting timely settlement reviews, and utilizing appropriate resources over the course of the year will be key.

Make Progress in Managing Risks & Costs
No matter how fast the tide rushes in, ground yourself in facing this year’s obstacles with positive change, putting yourself in the best position to avoid being washed out in the chaos. With the transparent, mutually beneficial workers compensation cost containment services of ANS Solutions and our medical cost containment strategies, you can support both financial savings and positive outcomes, with a program that actively engages workers compensation patients with a positive experience, gaining unmatched results via true, face-to-face interactions between all involved parties for a complete team approach to care. Ride the wave of the future, contact http://www.ans-solutions.com today.

Sources:

http://www.wci360.com/news/article/how-to-fix-the-primary-care-physician-shortage

http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/hospital-physician-relationships/15-things-to-know-about-the-physician-shortage.html

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Naloxone (Narcan): What Workers Comp Payers Need to Know

Though it has been on the market since 1971, this year is expected to be a landmark year in Naloxone (Narcan) sales nationwide, and this trend is expected to continue due not only to the opioid epidemic sweeping the nation, but the fact that opioids still remain the most frequently prescribed category of medication used in workers’ comp pain management.

Preventing Death from Opioid Overdose

In its hallmark form, Naloxone was approved for injection by the FDA in 1971. An opioid agonist, it was used in hospital and emergency settings to temporarily reverse the dangerous effects of overdose, including sedation, low blood pressure, and potentially fatal respiratory depression. However new outpatient options have recently entered the market, putting this potentially life-saving drug in the hands of the general public.

  • Evzio (2014)
    The first FDA-approved naloxone auto-injector available in the U.S., this small, portable device, similar in nature to an Epi-pen, can be used by patients or family members in the event of overdose. (Holds a significantly higher average wholesale price than Narcan and traditional injectables.)
  • Narcan (2016)
    A single-dose, ready-to-use nasal spray that requires the patient to be lying on their back for proper administration.

Not a Magic Bullet
Reversing the effects of opioids at the receptor site and blocking further binding, naloxone takes effect in 3 minutes, wearing off in about 30-to-90 minutes depending on the opioid taken. Though it reverses the clinical and toxic effects of overdose, it only displaces opioids for a short time.

Access Expanding
Despite its short-term effects, legislative and regulatory reforms are making naloxone increasingly available nationwide as states struggle to combat the opioid epidemic. Anesthesiologists, PMR physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and pain management specialists are writing the majority of prescriptions for patients undergoing opioid treatment therapies. Civil liability protection has been expanded for First Responders employing its use. Some states have even made naloxone available for sale as an over-the-counter medication.

Turn the Tide
Due to opioid over-prescription and abuse in our country, Naloxone is unfortunately a necessary medication. However, at ANS Solutions, we believe the best way to prevent opioid overdose is by circumnavigating its use with the patient-doctor education and equally effective, scientifically-proven alternative medical treatments that protect the outcome of injured workers, and reduce unnecessary opioid treatments and associated costs. With our medical cost containment strategies, safe, efficacious cost-effective care is possible. Discover more at http://www.ans-solutions.com today.

Sources: http://helioscomp.com/docs/default-source/continuing-education-2016/072816-optum-naloxone-use-in-wc-ce_final.pdf 

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Comorbidities Compound Workers Comp Costs & Recovery

Underlying Conditions Complicate Workers’ Comp Injury Rehabilitation

New research from a Harbor Health Systems study demonstrates the significant impact of underlying conditions on workers’ comp claims. Commonly associated with higher costs and increased duration, this latest research illustrates an undeniable link between patients with comorbidities and undesirable claims outcomes.

A Problematic Pile-Up

Analyzing data from more than 7,000 workers’ comp claims, encompassing seven common comorbidities: Obesity, hypertension, diabetes, mental health, addiction, tobacco use, and combination comorbidities, claims associated with comorbid conditions were found to have incurred an array of undesirable side effects…

  • Higher medical costs
    • Multiple comorbidities increased total costs a whopping 341%
  • Longer claims duration
    • 76% increase with multiple comorbidities
    • 67% increase with addiction
    • 55% increase with obesity
  • More temporary total disability days (TTD)
    • Significantly higher overall in all groups
    • 285% higher with multiple comorbidities
    • 274% higher with addiction
  • Increased surgery rates
    • Up 123% with multiple comorbidities
    • Up 140% with obesity
  • Increased litigation
    • 147% higher with multiple comorbidities
    • 224% higher with addiction
    • 248% with mental health-related claims

Overall Outlook

While tobacco use had little effect on claims, multiple comorbidities and obesity had the greatest impact on overall, followed by addiction, mental health, and hypertension. Relationships between comorbidities were also found further complicate health and financial risks, with worker age throwing yet another wrench in the works.

Changing Direction

Given these research findings, it is obvious a more comprehensive, systemic approach to workers’ comp claim management is essential to improving treatment results, from a more thorough intake data analysis and the management of multiple health issues addressed by numerous providers and prescriptions, to identifying and finding alternative treatments to those that could result in narcotics abuse.

Quality Matters

Minimizing these risks and providing optimal outcomes for injured workers while controlling workers’ comp costs is no easy feat, and requires a tried and true strategy. ANS Cost Containment Programs work uniquely to address these issues with the only true face-to-face, end-to-end pharmaceutical cost containment program in the industry that genuinely puts patients first while minimizing claims costs through personalized relationships and in-depth case knowledge and review.

Rapid treatment progress and reduced claims costs are possible. Achieve maximum all-around results. Discover how with http://www.ans-solutions.com today.

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The Impact of Workers Compensation Compounding

As custom-made compound prescriptions concoctions continue to rack-up higher workers’ compensation costs, insurers are scrambling to find alternatives and employers are looking for relief from equally inflated premiums. With little to no evidence as to the efficacy of such creations, many states have implemented treatment guidelines directing doctors to more evidentiary-based, easily reimbursable options. Despite guidelines and formularies however, loopholes in coverage continue to allow providers to sell millions of dollars of compounds, with many companies submitting inflated reimbursement bills in their attempts to get paid.

A Growing Issue in Workers Compensation

This June, the U.S. Attorney’s Office brought criminal charges against such providers across the country, accusing them of defrauding the Medicare, Medicaid, and Tricare health insurance programs that serve the military and their families. Additionally, the Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service identified compound drugs as attributable for 34% of the postal service’s prescriptions, and 53% of prescription drug costs in 2015, a rise from 22% and 27% in 2014, respectively. State and federal prosecutors also continue to finger some pharmacies for offering doctor kickbacks in exchange for prescriptions.

Money or medicine?

Industry guidelines point to the use of such compounds as a last resort, accepted in instances where a person is allergic to an ingredient in a drug, or when a liquid version of a commercially available drug is necessary for one who cannot swallow capsules. Some doctors prescribe initially despite these guidelines. The unnecessary prescription of compounds is costing the workers’ comp industry billions annually.

Deep impact

2015 calculations indicate…

  • Re-packaged drugs dispensed by physicians cost employers 60% to 300% more than those dispensed at retail pharmacies.
  • The average paid per compound drug increased by more than two-thirds from $460.00 to $774.00, though non-compound drugs fell slightly from $113.00 to $108.00.
  • The U.S. Postal Service alone spent a whopping $390,000.00 a day for compound drugs in 2015.

Tired of paying more for ineffective treatments?
Proven, more affordable, clinically tested and approved options to compounds do exist. It’s time to find a better way. Discover how to achieve better claims outcomes with ANS Solutions Pharmacotherapy Review. Contact http://www.ans-solutions.com today.

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Prescription Drugs and the Workers’ Compensation Arena

The U.S. remains the biggest global consumer of prescription drugs, up from around 76 million in 1991 to nearly 207 million in 2013 however a recent court ruling has called into direct question the prescription practices of physicians nationwide (Volkow).

The occurrence of unnecessary or medically inappropriate prescribing of opioids in pain management is compromising the lives and well-being of injured workers.  There are a number of serious issues concerning the use of opioids in pain management:

  • Not cost effective
    Evidence-based reviews are seldom consulted prior to the prescribing of opioids, and a lack of appropriate physician monitoring and/or patient compliance further contributes to longer recovery periods and increased cost.
  • Increased drug-drug interactions
    Polypharmacy, the use of 4 or more medications simultaneously with opioids, can result in drug-drug interactions with severe consequences for patient health.
  • Risk for Addiction and Abuse
    The highly addictive nature of opioids leads to the necessity of higher doses over time, resulting in cost increase and greater risk of overdose/addiction. .
  • Lack of evidence for proven benefit
    Recovery and return to work rates are not improved by the use of opioids in pain treatment. The American Academy of Neurology and a number of states have released product guidelines advising physicians to proceed with caution when initiating opioid therapy for pain or long-term use.
  • Dose dependent risks for serious harm
    Physicians and patients are not always properly educated on use and good faith prescription practices and guidelines, including risks of remaining on disability, addiction, drug-drug interactions, and dosages at which death and risk of overdose dramatically increase.

Where do we go from here?
It’s never been more obvious than now that effective pain treatment must focus on the legitimacy and efficacy of treatments, keeping in mind the quality of care and quality of life of injured workers.  At ANS Solutions our pharmacotherapy review program is focused on protecting the injured worker by:

  • Better addressing the needs of pain patients with the assessment of treatment programs and help of evidence based reviews.
  • Improving recovery times with the proper monitoring and modifications of treatment.
  • Reducing the risks associated with common opioid treatment regimens by consolidating and coordinating drug therapies between multiple prescribers, identifying duplicate therapies and excessive dosages, and pointing out alternate medication regimens.

Positive change stems from a comprehensive and economically responsible approach in the treatment of pain in workers compensation claims settlements. To learn more about pharmacotherapy review contact ANS today.

References

Volkow, Nora D. Prescription Opioid and Heroin Abuse, House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/legislative-activities/testimony-to-congress/2015/prescription-opioid-heroin-abuse;  April 29, 2014.

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