Effort Focuses On Better Ways For Hospitals To Detect Drug Diversion

Posted on May 17, 2018 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare branding and communications expert with more than 25 years of industry experience. and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also worked extensively healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. She can be reached at @ziegerhealth or www.ziegerhealthcare.com.

Using a combination of machine learning technology and advanced analytics, a healthcare vendor has been working to find better ways to spot drug diversion in U.S. hospitals. The work done by the firm, Invistics, is funded by an NIH research grant.

The project has taken aim at a ripe target. According to a 2017 study by Porter Research, 96% of healthcare professionals who responded said that drug diversion happened often in their business. Also, sixty-five percent of respondents said that most diversion never gets detected. Clearly, there’s a hole you could drive a truck through in the drug dispensing process.

During the first stage of the research, Invistics worked with a pilot hospital to find opioid and drug theft across the entire facility. To get the job done, the vendor aggregated data from across the pilot hospital’s systems, including medical records, employee time clocks, wholesale purchasing, inventory and dispensing cabinets.

By leveraging data across several departments, Invistics got a much clearer view of potential problems than other efforts have in the past. The initiative was completely successful, with the technology picking out 100% of drug diversion happening within the project’s parameters, the company said. Since the completion of Phase I of the grant, Invistics has rolled out the solution at several other hospitals.

When it comes to avoiding opioid abuse, far morer attention has been focused on patterns of opioid prescribing, with the assumption that the opioid addiction epidemic can be stemmed at the source. For example, we recently covered a study looking at post hospital-discharge opioid use which centered on predicting which patients would be on chronic opioid therapy after discharge and planning for that discharge appropriately.

There’s no question that such research has a place in the battle against opioid misuse and abuse. After all, it seems likely that at least some needless addictive patterns stem from physician prescribing habits. It also makes sense that states are revising their guidelines for opioid prescribing, though to my knowledge these changes are being based more on ideology than rigorous research.

On the other hand, drug diversion creates a pipeline between drug supplies and drug abusers which must be addressed directly if the opioid abuse war is to be won. I for one was interested to learn about a solution that addresses this piece of the puzzle.