3 Ways Healthcare Agencies Can Combat the Opioid Crisis

Written by Riley Piper

July 17, 2018

3 Ways Healthcare Agencies Can Combat the Opioid Crisis

While this oupledurrent opioid crisis seems like a relatively new issue in the United States, legal and illegal pain relievers have been effecting the American population for decades. With that said, medically prescribed opioids like hydrocodone, OxyContin, and Percocet, as well as illegal drugs like heroin, are growing in popularity around the country, and continue to be abused by today’s youth. A look at the numbers associated with the crisis can give a more quantifiable view of the seriousness of this situation.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, approximately 65,000 U.S. citizens lost their life in 2017 as a result of either misuse or an overdose of opioids. In fact, between 21% and 29% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misused them. An unfortunate part of this crisis comes from the realization that cutting off the head of the snake and stopping opioids prescriptions may not be the best option. While it has caused a lot of heartache for families and destroyed cities with high usage rates, this class of drug is still very helpful and necessary for healthcare and treatment. With that said, what can local agencies do to combat this crisis?

Focus on Service Quality
An increasing number of Americans misusing these opioids is coupled with an increasing number of patients in search of help. To minimize the amount of lives lost to this crisis, it’s crucial that this influx of patients is met with sufficient treatment options from their local programs and rehabilitation facilities. Fortunately, it seems that Health and Human Services organizations that provide these services are experiencing parallel growth in conjunction with service demand. Our DATIS 2018 State of the Workforce Management report found that 60% of Health and Human Services organizations are currently experiencing ‘steady’ or ‘rapid’ growth. With more employees, these organizations can better serve their growing list of patients impacted by today’s opioid crisis.

A good example of an initiative whose purpose is to increase the quality and frequency of care is comes from the National Council for Behavioral Health, where they explain the CCBHC initiative (Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics). According to National Council, 100% of the clinics participating in the initiative have seen an increase in headcount. When increasing headcount, it’s important that these organizations aren’t sacrificing the quality of care provided to clients. Executives also need to be mindful that their services and programs they offer are properly aligned with the needs of their patients. It’s fair to say that an increase in demand from patients has a positive correlation with the need for workforce expansion both clinically and administratively.

Recruiting and Retaining Talent
As organizations attempt to reduce the impact of the opioid crisis, executives are attempting to grow and strengthen their workforce through strategic recruiting. Sadly, workforce expansion is much easier said than done for executives in the Health and Human Services industry, where organizations compete for talent in small applicant pools where qualified talent is not always readily available. From our State of the Workforce Management survey, 89% of executives are expecting their headcount to increase in 2018. This shows that executives are investing in their organization this year to meet the increase in service demand.

More than half of executives that took part in our recent survey cited that their inability to offer applicants competitive salaries and benefits was their biggest recruiting issues. This forces agencies to be more creative with their incentives to come entice and attract top talent, with benefits like flexible office hours, generous PTO, and an engaging company culture. Health and Human Services executives understand that there’s no one immediate fix to the opioid, but they know that in order to do their job for the community, they need to best staff their workforce to help and serve those impacted.

Increase Workforce Visibility
Lastly, to prepare their workforce and combat the opioid crisis, Health and Human Services executives need to make sure they have access to all their data, whenever they need it. To operate at full capacity and realize their full potential, organizations need to be able to analyze in depth analytics regarding their inputs and outputs. With greater workforce visibility, executives can see what departments need additional employees, which employees are underperforming, and how much remaining budget they have for certain programs.

To truly help patients effected by the opioid crisis, executives need to understand their workforce and organization at a granular level. This level of workforce visibility will help organizations deliver a higher quality of care, and help executives better understand where their workforce needs support to better handle these recent demand increases. If Health and Human Services organizations can strengthen their workforces in a strategic manner, they’ll be able to increase their offerings, improve their service quality, and serve more patients dealing with opioid related issues.

This DATIS Blog was written by Riley Piper, DATIS, on February 8th, 2018 and may not be re-posted without permission.