The current opioid epidemic has been declared a public health emergency — and could be the deadliest drug crisis in American history. Opioid overdoses killed more than 42,000 people in 2016, and along with destroying lives and devastating communities, opioids are wreaking havoc in the workplace.1 One survey showed that 70% of employers have been affected by problems related to prescription drug use, including absenteeism, impaired performance, and workplace injury.2
Through education and support for patients and prescribers, Kaiser Permanente has been working to address the opioid epidemic for nearly a decade, with multidisciplinary initiatives designed to:
We have dramatically reduced our members’ risk for opioid abuse and addiction — through improved prescribing and dispensing policies, monitoring and follow-up processes, and coordination across departments and specialties.
It’s our integrated care delivery system and seamless coordination that make our opioid management programs possible — and successful. In our unique model, members, providers, hospitals, medical offices, pharmacies, and laboratories are linked together in one connected system. Physicians and care teams from our primary and specialty care, pain management, and addiction medicine departments work closely with each other — and with our pharmacists — to provide effective pain relief without putting our members at risk for opioid-related complications. We accomplish this through:
Specific details of our opioid management programs may vary by region, but the goals, methodologies, and core practices are consistent — and proven to be highly effective. For example, our opioid management efforts in Southern California between 2010 and 2015 resulted in:
98% fewer prescriptions for more than 200 pills3
Limiting the number of pills and duration of use reduces the likelihood that patients will become chronic users. The risk for long-term use increases after just 3 days, and continues to rise rapidly after that.4
90% fewer opioid prescriptions in combination with benzodiazepines and carisoprodol5
Combining these medications amplifies the risks associated with them. All 3 suppress the central nervous system — which can cause slow or difficult breathing that can be fatal.6
95% fewer brand-name opioid prescriptions when generic is available7
Generic opioid medications are less likely to be diverted into the community, because people who intend to misuse opioids typically seek out well-known, brand-name drugs, such as Percocet.
Our integrated system enables new ideas and practices to spread faster, so we can start seeing large-scale improvements sooner. After early successes in several of our regions, providers and pharmacists across Kaiser Permanente shared their learnings and methods quickly — and continued to achieve positive results.
Since expanding the program, the overall volume of opioids prescribed has plummeted at Kaiser Permanente.8 Plus, we reduced the number of high-dose opioid prescriptions in every region we served between 2014 and 2017.9
Only with an integrated care delivery model like ours could such an effective end-to-end approach to opioid management be implemented — and the results be measured, scaled, and shared beyond our walls to show other health systems what they can do to help end the opioid epidemic.
“Drug Overdose Death Data,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017.
“How the Prescription Drug Crisis Is Impacting American Employers,” National Safety Council, 2017.
Jan L. Losby, PhD, MSW, et al., “Safer and More Appropriate Opioid Prescribing: A Large Healthcare System’s Comprehensive Approach,” Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, July 14, 2017.
Anuj Shah, et al., “Characteristics of Initial Prescription Episodes and Likelihood of Long-Term Opioid Use — United States, 2006–2015,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, March 17, 2017, p. 265.
See note 3.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, September 20, 2017.
Kaiser Permanente internal data.
Kaiser Permanente internal data. Reduction in prescriptions for 90 morphine milligram equivalents or more per day between 2014 and 2017.
Services covered under your health plan are provided and/or arranged by Kaiser Permanente health plans: Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., in Northern and Southern California and Hawaii • Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Colorado • Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Georgia, Inc., Nine Piedmont Center, 3495 Piedmont Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30305, 404-364-7000 • Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States, Inc., in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., 2101 E. Jefferson St., Rockville, MD 20852 • Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest, 500 NE Multnomah St., Suite 100, Portland, OR 97232 • Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington or Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington Options, Inc., 320 Westlake Ave. N, Suite 100, Seattle, WA 98109 • Self-insured plans are administered by Kaiser Permanente Insurance Company, One Kaiser Plaza, Oakland, CA 94612
Congratulations! You have successfully saved this item.
To access your Saved items any time, open the "Saved Items" folder in the top right corner of the page.
View Saved Items >
It seems that you do not have cookies enabled. Please enable cookies to make use of all of our site's functionality.
You haven't collected any items yet.
Click the "Save" icon next to the content you want to revisit later.
Click on the "Saved Items" link at the top of the page
or use the URL we create for you.
Be sure to copy and paste the URL we create for you before you leave the site.
1-5 of 14
After leave the site, your saved items will be saved for you at this URL:
Share your list