What Role Can Health IT Play When an Epidemic Meets a Pandemic?

By David Bucciferro (Foothold Technology), co-chair of the EHRA and the Opioid Task Force, and Renee Han (Epic), Opioid Task Force member

Over the past several years, community service and health professionals have fought hard to gain ground in the battle against the opioid epidemic. From 2017 until 2020, the number of patients receiving buprenorphine, methadone, or naltrexone – common medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD) – consistently increased as more patients at risk for OUD and overdose were identified and treated, according to a report from Epic Research

First-time MOUD, buprenorphine, and naltrexone patients over time. Solid colored capsules show the last observed value. Dashed outline capsules show the predicted value for May 2020. (Source: Epic Research.)

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The Case for Telehealth Reform

By the EHR Association

The expanded access to telehealth enabled under the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) has been transformational and served to engrain virtual care into the nation’s healthcare landscape – improving access and outcomes. Healthcare providers have risen to the challenge of meeting patients’ expectations for telehealth services by making substantial investments into new technologies that have so far carried them through the pandemic. 

However, despite ongoing surges and the emergence of new variants, many of the telehealth flexibilities that have helped dramatically improve patient access to care will expire later this year unless the Biden Administration extends the COVID-19 PHE  – which must be renewed every 90 days. Should that happen, the impact to public health programs and private healthcare delivery alike will be significant. 

Even if the PHE is extended, the uncertainty generated by its temporary nature is impacting all aspects of healthcare.

Even if the PHE is extended, the uncertainty generated by its temporary nature is impacting all aspects of healthcare. Healthcare organizations must decide if they can risk dedicating finite financial resources to maintaining the technological and clinical infrastructure required to continue offering telehealth programs at the level to which patients are now accustomed, when the possibility exists that Congress may ultimately decide against making the changes allowed under the PHE permanent.

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