New Application Integrated into Electronic Health Record Helps AHN Caregivers More Effectively Screen for a Patient’s History of Prescribed Controlled Substances

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Allegheny Health Network (AHN) is the first health care provider in the state to equip its clinicians with a new software solution to help address the opioid epidemic

We’re able to provide better care, identify problems much quicker, and give patients and their family peace of mind when we prescribe controlled substances.

As the battle against the opioid epidemic in western Pennsylvania rages on, Allegheny Health Network (AHN) has become the first health care provider in the state to equip its clinicians with a new software solution to help address the problem.

AHN has partnered with Appris Health, an industry leader in prescription data monitoring solutions, to implement a new capability, PMP Gateway, which enables AHN caregivers to seamlessly check a patient’s history of prescribed controlled substances, all without navigating away from that patient’s electronic chart in Epic.

“Access to this critical information is now only one click away, and it saves us an incredible amount of time,” said David Chuirazzi, MD, an emergency medicine physician at AHN. “It’s a particularly timely advance for patient care given the continuing impact of the opioid epidemic in our region and across the country.”

The new tool queries against the state’s recently developed Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) database, which houses controlled substance and opioid prescription history data for patients. The tool also utilizes similar data from Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia to help AHN prescribers cast a wider net.

As doctors continue to familiarize themselves with the subtleties of documenting patient care through an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) such as Epic, Appriss Health serves as another example of its many advantages.

“We’re able to provide better care, identify problems much quicker, and give patients and their family peace of mind when we prescribe controlled substances,” says Jennifer Preiss, MD, AHN Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. “We can access information unencumbered, and can focus more on patient care without dealing with administrative computer work.”

Previously, providers were required to navigate out to the PDMP site, input credentials and locate their patients manually. This new mechanism pulls information out of the PDMP database directly into the patient’s chart without having to navigate elsewhere. It’s an incredibly easy and effective way to ensure the safety of the patient, while also satisfying the state’s mandated requirement to query the PDMP.

“It is for these reasons that an application such as Appriss Health’s is welcomed with open arms,” says George Dimitriou, MD, AHN Internal Medicine. “It allows the physician to provide safer and better care for their patients as well as fulfill a regulatory obligation more efficiently. Performing a controlled substance query in seconds rather than minutes is a huge boost for physician workflow, and it occurs without sacrificing the quality of the information received.”

Dimitriou believes this won’t be the last 3rd party application to help aid in physician efficiency. “Whether it is for simple interfacing of software platforms, performing critical data mining, or in other ways helping to make the work of physicians easier and more productive, these applications will continue to be critical.”

The Appriss application to the Epic electronic health record is just one more step that Allegheny Health Network and Highmark Health have taken as part of a comprehensive strategy to address the opioid epidemic. Among those efforts:

  • AHN recently launched a Center of Excellence for Opioid Use Disorder, a program designed to help patients with opioid-related substance use disorders receive the health and community-based care and support they need to recover from their illness and maintain long-term wellness.
  • The network instituted a system-wide policy that requires its physicians to check the PDMP when a patient is prescribed a controlled substance for the first time, each time the patient is prescribed an opioid or benzodiazepine drug product, or if there is reason to believe a patient is abusing or diverting drugs.
  • AHN’s emergency medical professionals offer training to police officers in the use of the drug Narcan in order to help first responders treat overdose victims and reverse the effects of overdoses.
  • The network offers two maternal addiction programs – Perinatal Hope in Pittsburgh and Growing Hope in Erie – that combine obstetrical care, drug and alcohol therapy and medication-assisted treatment to provide new mothers and their babies with the best opportunity to thrive.
  • AHN hospitals participate in Warm Handoff Programs, providing immediate transfer to a treatment center for patients who come to the Emergency Department with an overdose and agree to rehab.
  • Highmark has issued several major grants to address the crisis, including $100,000 in grants to the PA District Attorneys Institute to support the PA Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs in establishing a naloxone administration program to assist municipal police departments in reducing opioid overdoses; as well as grants to fund community forums in both PA and WV.
  • Highmark has enhanced its monitoring and management of both physician prescribing and member use of opioids, as well as its coverage of methadone, which helps addicts become more successful in fighting their addiction.
  • The Highmark Caring Place has hosted a forum for families who have been touched by the crisis.

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About Allegheny Health Network
Allegheny Health Network (AHN.org), a Highmark Health company, is an integrated healthcare delivery system serving the greater Western Pennsylvania region. The Network is composed of eight hospitals, including Allegheny General Hospital, its flagship academic medical center in Pittsburgh, Allegheny Valley Hospital in Natrona Heights, Canonsburg Hospital in Canonsburg, Forbes Hospital in Monroeville, Jefferson Hospital in Jefferson Hills, Saint Vincent Hospital in Erie, West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh and Westfield Memorial Hospital in Westfield, NY. The Network provides patients with access to a complete spectrum of advanced medical services, including nationally recognized programs for primary and emergency care, cardiovascular disease, cancer care, orthopaedic surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, women’s health, diabetes and more. It also is home to a comprehensive research institute; Health + Wellness Pavilions; an employed physician organization, home and community based health services and a group purchasing organization. The Network employs approximately 17,000 people, has more than 2,800 physicians on its medical staff and serves as a clinical campus for Drexel University College of Medicine, Temple University School of Medicine, and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.

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Candace Herrington
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