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Neidra Evans is HealthInsight’s corporate vice president of integration. She joined HealthInsight Oregon (formerly Acumentra Health) in 2009 as an accountant and was promoted to controller in 2010 and to director of finance in 2012, adding administrative services the following year. With the affiliation of HealthInsight and Acumentra Health in mid-2016, she was named associate executive director of HealthInsight Oregon. In that position, she developed, implemented and measured strategic and business planning initiatives and processes, and oversaw contract management, finance and information technology staff. She assumed her current position in April 2017. Before joining the company, Neidra worked as an accountant with the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, CA.

United to Save Lives

Man and woman looking at meds

A few weeks ago, I was privileged to join 2,250 other attendees at the 2017 National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit in Atlanta, put on by Operation UNITE. Billed as "the largest annual conference addressing the opioid crisis," this event brings together professionals from across the nation to discuss how to respond to the epidemic of opioid abuse, misuse and overdose.

Attendees of this summit are acutely aware of the grim statistics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 33,000 deaths in 2015 from prescription opioids and heroin. That's an average of more than 90 deaths a day of Americans from all parts of the country, all walks of life and all age groups.

As a non-health care professional, I listened for three days as advocates, researchers, providers, clinicians, law enforcement and government officials—including my HealthInsight Oregon colleagues—described efforts to reverse the current trends and save lives. I heard about many initiatives, ranging from prevention of opioid abuse and misuse to addiction services and diversion tools. Several focus areas emerged for me.

  • Reduce unneeded opioid prescribing. Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs are electronic databases that provide a complete history of controlled prescription medications given to a patient. Almost all states have implemented these programs to help physicians and pharmacists detect worrisome prescribing patterns and reduce harmful drug interactions and overprescribing.
  • Consider alternative methods to treat and manage pain. Non-pharmaceutical treatments and non-opioid medications are preferred over opioids for most painful conditions. There is good evidence that non-pharmaceutical treatments are beneficial, with low cost and minimal side effects. These treatments include physical and occupational therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic and massage therapy as well as cognitive behavioral therapy and guided meditation to redirect painful symptoms. Physicians are seeing the value of these kinds of treatments and insurers have begun paying for them. When opioids are needed to treat serious painful conditions, providers and pharmacists play an essential role in educating patients and their families about the risk of opioids and how to safely use, store and dispose of them.
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Try a Little Mindfulness

Brain

I like to think I have an analytical mind. I've built a career in accounting and finance, with side interests in technology and programming, and I've worked with health-related organizations for a number of years. Given that context, what I'm about to share may come as a surprise.

Daily meditation has had a greater impact on my wellbeing than any pharmaceutical drug or diagnostic test. It has also been a valuable resource in my professional life. Best of all, it costs nothing but my own time and dedication.

In our quest for the "quick fix," we may overlook the power of mindfulness. As often as we talk about engaging patients in their own care, we may not recognize the potential for healing within ourselves.

Migraines and epilepsy have run in my family. I was young when my migraines began, and I was given opioids to treat them from age 12 on. Sometimes I had to visit the emergency room for higher doses of morphine to find pain relief. My epilepsy required me to undergo semiannual electroencephalograms (EEGs) to maintain my driver's license, and to take medications that had negative effects on my personality. Yet all of this seemed normal and sustainable until I found a better solution.

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