Blog | Clinical Decision Support

Healthcare News of Note: A majority of physicians fear they missed signs of drug misuse during the pandemic and predict drug overdose deaths will rise, says a Quest Diagnostics report

Blog | Clinical Decision Support

Healthcare News of Note: A majority of physicians fear they missed signs of drug misuse during the pandemic and predict drug overdose deaths will rise, says a Quest Diagnostics report

  • A majority of physicians fear they missed signs of drug misuse during the pandemic and predict that drug overdose deaths will continue to rise.
  • Patient engagement, interoperability and population health management are the operational areas seeing the most improvement in the use of technology.
  • The majority of Medicaid health plans had a health equity plan in 2020, according to the “Medicaid Access & Care in 2020” report.

Over the last few weeks, I have found these industry news stories that should be of interest to healthcare finance professionals.

1. A majority of physicians fear they missed signs of drug misuse during the pandemic

A majority of physicians indicated they “fear they missed signs of drug misuse during the pandemic” and predicted that drug overdose deaths will continue to rise, according to a Quest Diagnostics Health Trends Report published Nov. 15.

“Amid the pandemic’s days of self-isolation, delayed medical care, economic dislocation, and mental distress, drug misuse surged,” the authors wrote. “In July 2021, the CDC reported that drug overdose deaths, fueled largely by fentanyl, rose to over 96,779 from March 2020-March 2021, the highest ever in a single year.”

Report highlights

  • 94% of primary care physicians report seeing more patients experiencing stress, anxiety or other mental health issues because of the pandemic
  • 75% of physicians believe telehealth visits limit the ability to determine if patients are at risk for or are already misusing prescription drugs
  • 76% expect deaths from drug overdose will continue to rise even as the pandemic subsides

“This research reveals that physicians need comprehensive resources to identify risk, combat drug misuse and care for suffering patients,” wrote the authors. “Guidelines that are clear and flexible — harnessing not only medically appropriate clinical drug testing, but also telehealth, home-based care and other consumer-centric approaches — will improve physicians’ ability to deliver the right care, at the right time, for the individual patient.”

The snapshot of prescription and illicit drug misuse in the U.S. was provided by a Quest report based on “two sets of data — a new online survey, conducted for Quest Diagnostics and Partnership to End Addiction by The Harris Poll, of over 500 primary care physicians, and results of clinical drug laboratory testing performed by Quest Diagnostics across the United States.”

2. Survey: Healthcare organizations’ most improved areas for technology use are patient engagement, interoperability and population health management

Patient engagement, interoperability and population health management are areas within healthcare organizations with the most improvement when it comes to use of technology, according to a report based on a CHIME Digital Health Most Wired Survey.

Over the past four years, the Most Wired survey has expanded to ambulatory and long-term/post-acute care (LTPAC) facilities, according to the report. Each year, an average of 2,200 acute care facilities across the United States are represented.

Survey highlights

Patient engagement. The report reviewed patient engagement by querying respondents about patients’ use of telehealth, patient portals and mobile apps.

  • 80% of acute and ambulatory care organizations report that more than 10% of patients have used telehealth services in the last year. This represents an increase in telehealth usage overall; however, slightly fewer organizations report more than 25% of patients using telehealth, in contrast to the dramatic growth that occurred from 2019 to 2020.
  • 83% of acute care organizations report high use of patient portals by patients (i.e., 25%+ have accessed the portal in the last year).
  • Adoption of mobile apps for patients has grown consistently (up an average of 9 percentage points in uptake by organizations in 2020 and 2021). The mobile app capability with the greatest growth is pricing lists for various services (up 22 percentage points in 2021).

Population health management activities. According to the report, “Participation in population health activities has remained steady in the last year, with the average increase ranging from 1-4 percentage points. The activity with the highest adoption increase is use of tailored advanced analytics (up 6 points); however, advanced analytics remains one of the least adopted population health activities.”

Certain analytics tools are more highly adopted and more often embedded in the clinician workflow, according to the report. Notable examples are “analytics for total cost of care (adopted by 91% of organizations) and physician-level quality measures (adopted by 98%),” the authors wrote. “Tailored advanced analytics, while less adopted overall, are growing in use. For example, more acute care organizations are fully deploying embedded predictive analytics into the clinician workflow (up from 44% in 2020 to 55% in 2021).”

3. 70% of Medicaid health plans reported having a health equity plan in 2020, survey says

Seventy percent of Medicaid health plans had a health equity plan in 2020, according to the “Medicaid Access & Care in 2020” report, which detailed results from the Institute for Medicaid Innovation’s 2021 Annual Medicaid Health Plan survey.

Health equity and structural racism, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, were new elements covered in the report, which also detailed usual components such as behavioral health, women’s health and child and adolescent health.

Addressing health and racial disparities

According to the report, released in November, the majority of health plan respondents had a dedicated person or team focused on addressing:

  • Health disparities (100%)
  • Health equity (87%)
  • Racial equity (67%)
  • Structural racism (60%)

Additional key takeaways regarding health equity and structural racism included:

  • More than half (53%) of respondents had a chief equity officer or equivalent role within their organization.
  • A large majority of respondents stratified outcomes (93%) and quality (80%) data by race and ethnicity.
  • A third of respondents worked with both “small, disadvantaged businesses” and “small and diverse businesses.”

All respondents that had a health equity strategy in 2020 led programs or implemented policies for health plan internal staff to address racism and promote racial equity.

“Health plans continue to serve a central role in curtailing the spread of COVID-19, managing the health of populations during unprecedented times, and leading efforts to address and properly resolve social problems necessary for survival,” the authors wrote. “Paramount to the pandemic is a rigorous and appropriate space created to address inequities throughout the United States health system.”

HFMA bonus content

Read the "New surprise billing regulations: How providers should be preparing to fulfill the pending requirement about good-faith estimates" article written by Nick Hut, senior editor.

Read HFMA's  "Healthcare 2030" four-part  series:   

  1. CFO of the Future
  2. Workforce of the Future
  3. The Future of Consumer Expectations
  4. The Future of Strategic Investment

 

About the Author

Deborah Filipek

is a senior editor at HFMA, Westchester, Ill. 

Sign up for a free guest account and get access to five free articles every month.

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