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Gaining Insight on the Opioid Crisis with Data Analytics

More than 70,000 lives in the U.S. were lost to the opioid epidemic in 2017 according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Every day, more than 130 people3 are dying due to opioid-related drug overdoses. More than statistics, these numbers signify family members, friends and coworkers, making it increasingly important to find a way to halt this ongoing national public health crisis.

Here are some other alarming facts:

• 60 percent of injured workers on opioids for more than 90 days will still be on opioids five years later1
• Large, self-insured employers could spend an additional $14,810 for each covered employee who abuses opioids2
• The U.S. consumes 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone and 81 percent of its oxycodone, but only constitutes five percent of the world’s population3
• Nearly 80 percent of heroin users report abusing prescription opioids first3

It’s easy to recognize this national challenge; however, it can be hard to quantify the issue within an employee population, and even harder to identify action items that will make an impact. 

However, a review of healthcare claims data can yield meaningful insights, such as:

• Identifying at-risk members – like those with a history of abuse, who receive multiple prescriptions from multiple doctors
• Noting providers prescribing outside of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended rates, including initial prescriptions for more than seven days
• Detecting those diagnoses – such as back pain – where an alternate, safer medication can be prescribed in place of opioids
• Pinpointing prescriptions that are contraindicated – harmful when taken together
• Reviewing prior history to identify opportunities for alternate treatment through pain management programs
• Finding examples of excessive billing for drug testing

With actionable data in hand, employers are better positioned as they develop management programs, including education, behavioral telehealth and provider network management and able to compare and track results.

High Line Health is a New York City-based healthcare data analytics company offering data solutions that identify action items for savings and improve population health. For more information, please visit or

1 Martin BC, Fan MY, Edlund MJ, Devries A, Braden JB, Sullivan MD. Long-term chronic opioid therapy discontinuation rates from the TROUP study. J Gen Intern Med 2011;26:1450-7.

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