Opioids and HEDIS: Measures to Make a Difference

When Joshua Jenkins was growing up in a small town in Missouri, he thought that he would like to be a pediatrician someday. His mother, Debbie Woods, thought that Josh – a friendly and intelligent kid who, she says, could sing "like an angel" – would be a great doctor. Instead, Josh died of an accidental overdose on the eve of his 21st birthday. For nearly five years, he had become addicted to opioids that he had acquired through countless prescriptions from dozens of doctors.

Debbie says Josh has always tried to reassure her by saying, "It's okay, Mom. It's a prescription and the doctors give it to me. But she knew that it was not good when prescriptions came so often, from so many doctors.

It started when Josh was 16 years old. He rolled his ATV with his father and crushed a vertebra in his neck. An emergency physician prescribed hydrocodone for pain. Debbie says that the prescription marked the beginning of the end. For weeks – and then for months – Josh complained of pain, inability to sleep, various other ailments … which led to more appointments and more prescriptions. # 39; opioids.

"He lived every day trying to find the next prescription.It was miserable."

Although Debbie has worked for decades as a technician and bushwoman, she says she has not considered the possibility of an addiction before it is too late.

She desperately tried to stop Josh's prescription shopping. He was on his insurance, but because of the HIPAA guidelines, once Josh was 17, she could not talk to her doctors about her treatment. Debbie says that she begged her insurance company to report the account, but her means were in vain. Josh visited 40 doctors and dentists over a two-year period, filling prescriptions in pharmacies within a 60 mile radius.

Josh went to treatment again and again. In his third and final addiction treatment program, he wrote letters to his doctors telling them that he was an addict and asking them not to prescribe opioids for him. Three weeks later, he went to see a new doctor, who did not know his story. Debbie says the doctor gave Josh 250 pills in 48 hours. A few days later, Josh was dead.

Opioids and HEDIS®: steps to make a difference

But Debbie sees hope for other families in the new NCQA HEDIS® measures dealing with the use of opioids : a measure follows the use at long term and high dose – a risk factor for overdose and death; the second follows the opioid prescriptions of several suppliers or pharmacies. Debbie says these measures could have helped Josh and help other families. She says, "We are just normal people, I'm just the mother of someone, I hope and pray that it helps to put something in place to save lives."

NCQA works with health plans to address the opioid epidemic by helping clinicians and patients reduce overexploitation and find new treatments for pain. Learn more about this important work in this video .

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Emily Schmidt is an Edward 12 times. R. Murrow winning journalist who practices and teaches intelligent storytelling. As an on-air correspondent, his work has appeared on hundreds of media including: CNN, ABC, NBC, Bloomberg. Emily's career has allowed her to land a one-night sports anchor job, whereas she was only 15 years old, in Wisconsin, in the US. Iowa, Maryland and now Washington, DC. She is proud of the University of Missouri.

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