Alaska hospitals boost effort to reduce opioid abuse with new shared information system

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Emergency rooms across Alaska have a new weapon in the fight against opioid abuse. It's a shared information system that not only battles so-called "doctor shopping" but also aims to improve patient care and physician safety.

"As an example, last week, a patient registered with a pain complaint, and when the emergency physician clicked on the EDIE account, we were able to see that the patient had already received 1,400 tablets of controlled substances in the previous months," said Chief Medical Officer of Alaska Regional, Dr. Keri Gardner.

It's a program by Collective Medical called EDIE, which stands for Emergency Department Information Exchange. It allows hospitals across the state to share information and certain medical records, however, it's not just about busting drug seekers. Dr. Leigh Martinez Wright is the emergency medical director at Alaska Native Medical Center.

"So if it was knee pain, then you can look and see that patient has been seen for knee pain at three other hospitals," said Dr. Wright. "You know that at some point, they've been worked up for that, and so by doing that, we don't have to repeat studies that may have already been done, so that's better for costs, that makes their care cheaper overall, and it also provides us with a way that we're not repeating extra tests on patients that may not need it."

Alaska Native Medical Center, Alaska Regional Hospital, and Fairbanks Memorial Hospital are the latest hospitals in the state to jump on board. Mat-Su Regional Hospital claims they've experienced a 79 percent decrease in opioid prescriptions given in the emergency department over three years since implementing the program. It's also aimed at improving safety in the E.R.

"It allows us to put in safety alerts if there is a patient that has been violent at our hospital or at another hospital. It identifies those patients so that we can be aware," said Dr. Wright. "I think it's going to help patients that have mental health issues, patients that have substance abuse issues, and it's really going to help us develop better care for patients."

The Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association (ASHNHA) is spearheading the program in Alaska. So far nearly all acute care hospitals in Alaska along with ten critical access hospitals use the nationwide platform. The next phase will include tribal hospitals, behavioral health service providers and clinics.

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