Health systems are known more for competition than working together, but when it comes to treating opioid addiction, that may be changing.
Industry advocacy group Hospital and Health System Association of Pennsylvania is working to get hospitals across the state to share best practices on treating opioid use disorder.
The “opioid learning action network” is a two-year effort that makes use of a $10 million Bloomberg Philanthropies grant.
The goal is to share information and increase the number of patients using “evidence-based” treatment for opioid use disorder, said Jennifer Jordan, vice president of regulatory advocacy at HAP.
The network will use webinars, meetings and distance learning to connect doctors around the commonwealth, Jordan said. Some areas of focus include medication-assisted treatment and the transition from emergency care to long-term rehabilitation.
When opioid overdoses first hit Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, staff scrambled to learn how to keep people from relapsing after an overdose, said Dr. David Greenspan, psychiatry department chair at the hospital, at a media event.
Since then, there have been big strides at Einstein, and elsewhere, and he’s eager to share best practices with other facilities.
That includes medication-assisted treatment (MAT) through opioid replacements such as buprenorphine, paired with cognitive therapy and help with things like legal issues and employment.
“MAT has worked better than any abstinence program, but by itself, medication is not going to solve the opioid problem,” Greenspan said.
Improved communication across medical specialties and other “silos” is also important to preventing addiction and relapse, said Dr. Charles Barbera, emergency medicine chair at Tower health. That also includes looking at what a person’s options are after they get out of inpatient care.
“We have to look at not sending people back out to the same environment that gave them that addiction in the first place,” Barbera said.
The program is open and free to all Pennsylvania hospitals, but they must enroll to participate.