University Hospitals Awarded $1.2 Million To Help Mitigate Opioid Epidemic

Cleveland - University Hospitals was today awarded a $1 million grant from the Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge for creating an innovative technology solution that helps health professionals in the fight against the opioid epidemic plaguing our communities.

This follows a $200,000 award last year from the first phase of the Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge, which helped UH improve the product development and fueled collaboration internally as well as with other Challenge participants.

UH Ventures, the innovation arm for University Hospitals, developed UH Care Continues – a logistics technology platform supporting patients as they transition out of the hospital, providing an opportunity for opioid surveillance and tracking in real time.

“This prestigious acknowledgement from the Ohio Third Frontier validates University Hospitals’ proactive approach to doing its part to address the opioid epidemic in our community,” said Tom Zenty, University Hospitals CEO. “Furthermore, it also substantiates our decision to establish a venturing and innovation platform. A primary focus of UH Ventures is the growth and diversification of alternative income, the identification and support of unmet needs, as well as the sourcing of potentially scalable solutions from both within our health system and in collaboration with various external partners. UH Care Continues is a perfect example of this strategy in action.”

UH’s strategy to address the opioid epidemic includes reducing unnecessary opioid prescribing through education, awareness and accountability facilitated by technology innovations.

“UH Care Continues advances this objective,” said Eric Beck, DO, MPH, an emergency medicine physician and President of UH Ventures. “Routine opioid prescriptions are no longer an acceptable approach at the time of hospital discharge. UH Care Continues provides us with a unique opportunity to limit, by ensuring necessity, many of the opioid prescriptions contributing to risk for opioid misuse and dependence.”

UH Care Continues is part of a re-designed team approach to care coordination, discharge planning and post-acute care at UH.

“We are using technology to support clinicians in considering each patient’s needs, risks, preferences and alternatives as part of our new discharge planning process,” Dr. Beck said.

UH Care Continues leverages algorithms to prompt the discharge planning and inpatient care coordination teams to evaluate patient pain needs along with risk-factors for addiction or opioid-use disorder. During the six-month pilot period, UH implemented this technology at 12 hospitals within the system, screening more than 55,000 patients and keeping an estimated 12,000+ prescription opioid pills out of circulation in Northeast Ohio. Additionally, UH established an

Opioid Navigation Hotline that helps the care coordination team direct the patient to alternative, non-pharmacologic pain treatment modalities such as those offered by UH Connor Integrative Health Network, including acupuncture and massage therapy.

“This award will further assist our efforts to commercialize the product,” Dr. Beck said. “UH Care Continues provides a monumental shift in the way hospital discharge is addressed, and ultimately how provider/patient interactions are conducted. Our goal with UH Care Continues is to help other health care institutions support patients with needs-matched resources as they transition from the hospital to their next site of care.”

Last year, UH launched the Pain Management Institute, a system-wide initiative partnering providers across disciplines including primary care, surgery, emergency medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, pain management and the UH Connor Integrative Health Network to optimize patient care. Through these efforts, the system is working to provide clinicians with non-pharmacologic alternatives to opioids for pain; to improve and streamline communication between providers to better identify and manage patients at higher risk for opioid use disorder, and improve prescribing, safe disposal, follow up and management of patients when opioids are prescribed. 

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