How a data and community driven platform can improve drug overdose response

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the high cost of drug overdoses in the U.S., with provisional data from the CDC estimating more than 100,000 overdose deaths in the year ending in April 2021. 

The National Center for Health Statistics notes that’s an increase of nearly 29% from the deaths recorded in the same period the year before.

“We have failed to truly harness the power of technology in responding to the opioid and overdose epidemic over the past 20 years,” Kasey Claborn, assistant professor at the University of Texas and Andrea L. Daugherty, interim chief information officer at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas Austin, wrote to MobiHealthNews.

“Until recently, public funding has been insufficient to support the widespread need for evidence-based addiction treatment and prevention services. SAMHSA data show that in 2019 only 10% of those needing treatment for addiction in the U.S. actually received it.”

Their team spent the past two years working with communities in Texas to design a better system for overdose response, allowing people to anonymously report overdoses and catch nonfatal cases that don’t make it to the health system. They just wrapped up a pilot program implementing the platform, called TxCOPE (Texans Connecting Overdose Prevention Efforts), at harm reduction organizations across four counties in the state.

The platform gives users a better idea of what’s happening with drug overdoses in their communities so resources can be more effectively distributed. 

“TxCOPE also enables these organizations to track their impact in the community which can help with funding and sustaining these overdose prevention programs that tend to have high turnover. We are finalizing development of a community response dashboard that harm reduction outreach workers and community health paramedic programs will be able to use to inform their overdose response efforts,” Claborn and Daugherty wrote. 

They’re finalizing development of the platform, with the goal of making it available to other regions in the fall. 

“Texas is incredibly diverse, politically conservative, and vast,” they said. “We knew if we could build a platform that worked across this environment, the platform will be scalable to other areas across the nation.”

The HIMSS22 session “Digital System for Community-based Overdose Response” will take place on Thursday, March 17, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. in Orange County Convention Center W303A.

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