Alarming study reveals low rates of screening for fentanyl during overdose emergency room treatment

by | Aug 26, 2022 | EHR & Interoperability

A recent discovery has been made that individuals that experience a drug overdose are extremely unlikely to be tested for opioids when they are presented in the emergency room for livesaving treatment. The discovery is derived from analysis conducted by Epic Research and the University of Maryland’s Center (UMC) for Substance Abuse Research, who analyzed results from emergency rooms across the United States.

 The research conducted by a team made up of individuals from Epic and UMC, used Epic’s Electronic Health Record (EHR). The EHR contains deidentified Cosmos data, ensuring anonymity is retained, from over 145 million patients that reside in the fifty US states and work with one of Epic’s 172 organizations. Researchers analyzed over 3000,000 individual emergency room cases where an overdose occurred and were alarmed by the lack of testing people for opioids such as fentanyl during their treatment. The researchers focused on fifteen sets of lab results in separate categories. From this, it was found that opioids are tested for in just under half of overdose occurrences and the rate of positivity has fallen from 25.2% to 13.5% in the last four years. Another alarming finding from the research is the rate of positive fentanyl results when it is tested for, with 41% over tripling the 13% attributed to opiate positive results.

Commentary from authors of the research

Dr Eric Wish, co-author of the study conducted, commented on the usefulness of conducting research of this manner: “In this study, we had the unique opportunity to confirm this finding in many more hospitals. Because Cosmos data is both vast and representative of the U.S. population, it makes it possible to quickly observe this kind of nationwide challenge and inspire data-driven interventions”. With use of synthetic opioids being a leading killer of young people in the United States, it is imperative that the specific drugs and doses are identified to mitigate the loss of life moving forward. The director of clinical informatics at Epic and coauthor of the research published, Dr Dave Little affirmed this, stating: “At the emergency room, providers often immediately administer naloxone in any suspected overdose to try and save the patient’s life, not waiting for toxicology screening results to come back”…”We need to know precisely how people are struggling so that we can help them before their lives are on the line”.

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