Pharmacy Technology Report: UMass Medical School expert believes blockchain could assist in the opioid addiction battle

November 16, 2018

Pharmacy experts including Umass Medical School’s Kimberly Lenz, PharmD, discussed the ways they believe technological advances like blockchains can be utilized to face the nation’s opioid crisis in an article for the Pharmacy Technology Report. Health care providers across the country are searching for innovative solutions to this epidemic which effects over 100 Americans every day.

A blockchain is an ever-evolving list of records that can help prescribers make more informed decisions when writing prescriptions for patients. Dr. Lenz, clinical pharmacy manager in our Office of Clinical Affairs, believes it could have “immense potential” to not only lower the risk of addiction to opioids but also the overall amount spent by hospitals on opioid related treatments.

As part of her role, Lenz serves as a pharmacy leader for MassHealth, the Massachusetts Medicaid program.She  is part of a team that manages opioid pain medications for MassHealth, putting her in a unique position to offer insight on what works when treating patients with substance use disorders.

“Blockchain can be used to create a patient health care fingerprint, tracking not only medication use but hospitalizations, emergency room use, overdose history, other provider use and insurance/payor prior authorization status,” Lenz added. “The boundaries could be endless.”

Hope that blockchain could thwart and help manage opioid addiction appear to be well warranted because Telesphora, a tool that uses medical records to anticipate heroin or fentanyl outbreaks in states, won a national Opioid Code-a-Thon competition hosted by US Department of Health and Human Services. The team that created the tool, Origami Innovations, reported that Telesphora was able to successfully predict outbreaks up to 10 days before they occured 83% of the time.

Blockchain is still a relatively young solution to what has been a long-time problem in the United States. However, more and more health care organizations are starting to take notice of the impact data can have on the opioid crisis.


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