Using Data and HIM Tools to Address the Opioid Epidemic

Using Data and HIM Tools to Address the Opioid Epidemic

This monthly blog highlights and discuss emerging trends and challenges related to healthcare data and its ever changing life cycle.

By Lesley Clack, ScD and Aaron Schecter, PhD


The opioid epidemic has been a main topic of conversation in the past six months, due in large part to the heavy societal and economic costs of opioid abuse. Of particular concern is the increased number of opioid prescriptions, along with an increase in opioid overdose deaths. To combat this crisis, all areas of healthcare are focusing their efforts on finding solutions. Where does the field of health information management (HIM) fit in? What can we do? What tools are available?

In order for any healthcare organization to address the opioid crisis, they need data. Opioid diagnoses and prescription orders must be accurately recorded and captured so that we have information on the full scope and magnitude of the problem. Once we have accurate data, analytical tools will be essential for addressing this issue in HIM. But what HIM tools are available to assist?

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology has offered a few tips on how health IT can combat the opioid epidemic:

  • Using Electronic Health Record (EHR) integration with Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP). This integration makes it quick and easy for providers to check PDMP data prior to prescribing opioids.
  • Using Smartphone Apps. Apps can be utilized by patients as a practical and convenient tool to assist in their recovery from substance use disorders.
  • ePrescribing of Controlled Substances. ePrescribing can help protect against drug misuse while improving provider workflows.
  • Telehealth. Using telehealth technologies can help by expanding access to addiction treatment services and allowing providers to provide care remotely through videoconferencing and other modalities.
  • Clinical decision support tools in EHRs. Clinical decision support can help providers by supporting appropriate opioid prescribing, thus leading to improved outcomes.

In addition, there are specific health IT tools that have been designed to support opioid prescribing:

  • The CDC Opioid Prescribing Guideline Resources: Clinical Tools. This guideline is intended to help healthcare providers determine when and how to prescribe opioids for chronic pain, as well as make them aware of non-opioid and non-pharmacologic options that are effective when the risk of opioid use outweighs the benefits.
  • The CDC Opioid Prescribing Guideline Mobile App. The CDC has developed an app available for download to help healthcare providers put the guideline recommendations into clinical practice. This app contains the full Opioid Prescribing Guideline, a morphine milligram equivalent (MME) calculator, and an interactive motivational interviewing feature to help providers prescribe with confidence.
  • The MATx Mobile App. This smartphone app is designed to provide essential resources and information to providers interested in utilizing medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to treat patients with opioid use disorder.
  • The Minimizing the Misuse of Prescription Opioids in patients with Chronic Nonmalignant Pain module. This educational module is an introduction for healthcare professionals and students to a standardized approach to the management of patients with chronic pain that integrates techniques for the prevention and detection of misuse of prescription opioids.

The creation of HIM tools specific for assisting providers with opioid prescribing is essential as a first step to combatting this epidemic. In addition, placing emphasis on collecting and leveraging data with regards to opioids will be essential for impacting the opioid crisis.


Lesley Clack ( is assistant professor of health policy and management at the University of Georgia. Aaron Schecter ( is assistant professor of management information systems at the University of Georgia.


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  1. How does the apps mentioned in the article work with HIPAA and new HI-TECH laws for protected health information. I find a data breach inevitable give the unsecured nature of cell phones??

    1. It is my understanding that no patient data is entered.

  2. Unfortunately, this doesnt stop patients from Dr. shopping or dirty doctors who are willing to sell their RX pads and not look for alternatoves to opioids.

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