Congressional Quarterly reports an 18% reduction in opioid use among Medicare patients in recent years1. This is certainly movement in the right direction – especially considering prescriptions to this population have long been considered a source of diverted opioids.

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission is expected in March to recommend additional monitoring and tracking of opioids within hospitals citing overall opioid use among this population remains high despite the reduction. In 2016, for instance, one in three Medicare patients received an opioid prescription.

Greater tracking of opioids within, and outside of, hospitals can only help.

Health Solutions Research advocates assessing an individual patient’s risk of addition, of diversion, and of having an opioid overdose – and tracking opioid use relative to that risk level.

Just as healthcare moves towards personalized medicine, to fight this epidemic we need to respond to each patients’ individual needs. Following the opioids is a good idea, but it’s better to follow the patient.

1.Medicare commission sees need for improved opioid tracking in hospitals; AMA Morning Rounds; October 5th, 2018.