What Role Can Population Health Play in Dealing with the Opioid Crisis?

August 2, 2018 Iris Sheu

This article was first published in the "Thought Leaders’ Corner" section of Population Health News. You can read the article in Volume 5, Issue 7 of the newsletter.

One way in which population health is well-positioned to address the opioid crisis is through the integration of substance use disorder treatment in care management programs and initiatives, including musculoskeletal programs on lower back pain, knee pain, etc. as well as behavioral health management. Prior studies have shown that substance use disorder and psychiatric disorders co-occur at high rates, and this finding was validated in our internal analysis. Further, we see that opioid use increases the risk of adverse behavioral health events. By being able to identify high risk patients who have a history of opioid abuse, Evolent care managers and behavioral health specialists can provide the appropriate care to treat the complex set of problems these individuals face.

Another approach to addressing the opioid crisis through population health is through community level interventions and appropriate allocation of resources towards “hot spots” of opioid addiction. In a regression analysis, we were able to identify the hot spots by associating overdose incidents with neighborhood characteristics such as population density, race distribution, percent institutionalized population and physician prescription patterns. These results allow us to identify hot spots and provide guidance on how to better allocate resources and services towards addiction treatment and prevention of addiction at the community level.

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About the Author

Iris Sheu

Iris Sheu is a data scientist and predictive modeler for Evolent Health’s Clinical R&D team. In that role, she works to develop and improve Evolent's stratification models to identify the right patients for care management on which we can provide the greatest impact. Prior to Evolent, Iris was a model developer at PwC. She holds a B.S. in Biological Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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