Addressing the Opioid Crisis with the Help of Technology

By Jennifer Esposito, Worldwide General Manager, Health and Life Sciences Group, Intel

Note: This post is based on a discussion hosted by Ms. Esposito on June 12th, 2018, with ADM Brett P. Giroir, M.D., Assistant Secretary of Health at the Department of Health and Human Services; David Barash, M.D., Executive Director, Global Health Portfolio and Chief Medical Officer at the GE Foundation; Andrew Sperling, Director of Legislative Advocacy at the National Association of Mental Illness; and Andrew Churchill, Vice President of Federal Sales at Qlik.

Panelists.
Jennifer Esposito, Mr. Churchill, Dr. Barash, Mr. Sperling and ADM Giroir speaking at the panel.

Just last month, on May 28, Nebraska State Troopers seized 118 pounds of fentanyl  – enough to kill more than 26 million people. The depth of the ongoing opioid crisis has forced Congress, the health industry and the greater public to recognize addiction as a public health issue that requires solutions that transcend law enforcement. Technology can play a vital role in these solutions, helping society overcome the crisis that continues to plague millions.

It is clear that government must work with the technology and health industries to find solutions. Integrating care platforms, which will allow the sharing of patient data across various jurisdictions and help ensure that doctors can give new patients informed care, will require collaboration across government and industry. But the benefits are also clear. Technology can be used to curb the crisis from the beginning of the drug manufacturing process to saving the life of an overdose patient:

  • Blockchain technology can improve prescription drug tracking.
  • Artificial intelligence systems can analyze massive amounts of data to identify outbreak hotspots and guide the allocation of resources in rapid response.
  • Interdiction technology, like remote sensors and screening devices, can be used to monitor the hundreds of millions of pieces of mail flowing through the postal system daily and identify drug shipments.
  • Telehealth can assist providers with patient monitoring, especially in hard-hit rural and underserved areas where individuals may have limited access to care. Patient monitoring can also be integrated with wearable technologies, like sports trackers with heart-rate monitors, which can be used to alert family members and emergency responders of potential warning signs of an overdose.
  • Virtual reality has the potential to change lives by determining a patient’s potential for future addiction or providing additional support for a patient undergoing addiction recovery treatment.

We need a holistic approach that incorporates technology into range of solutions, whether that’s using big data to enable the postal service to intercept shipments of fentanyl, or making sure electronic health records seamlessly follow patients to streamline treatment. We also support the bipartisan Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act, which will give doctors appropriate access to patients’ full history and ensure that those plagued by addiction receive the highest quality care.

Most critically, we need federal policies that align governance across state lines and ensure that all involved parties, including care providers and patients, are communicating and accessing the information and data they need to adequately address this crisis.

To be clear, technology is only one part of a complex set of solutions that will need to come together to help alleviate this crisis. Intel is committed to advancing the technology and policy solutions that will deliver the resources and care needed by those suffering from opioid addiction.