Safety

The growing perils of painkillers

Hospital Safety Insider, June 16, 2016

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Healthcare organizations justifiably worry about increasing threats such as the Zika virus, active shooter incidents, and medical errors contributing to patient deaths. But perhaps their greatest topical fear should be the snowballing opioid epidemic and the consequences it can wreak upon medical facilities.

Consider that 78 Americans are killed daily from opioid overdoses and that overdose fatalities involving prescribed opioids have quadrupled since 1999, with over 165,000 people dying in the U.S. between 1999 and 2014, according to the CDC. Additionally, per the CDC, more than 1,000 people are treated each day in EDs for misusing prescription opioids, the most common being methadone, as well as the painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone.

Aside from the devastating toll it takes on human lives, opioid abuse imposes an estimated $55 billion in societal costs every year, with $25 billion of that price tag going to aggregate healthcare costs in the United States, based on a 2015 report by Matrix Global Advisors.

Opioid patients and perpetrators can significantly jeopardize safety and security within a healthcare facility. But by recognizing the threats, assessing the areas of vulnerability, and following smart strategies, organizations can better safeguard their occupants.

Some hospital safety experts say patients under the influence of opioids put staff, fellow patients, and visitors at risk due to the risk of aggressive behaviors, especially acute drug poisoning admissions.

Others say that hospitals need to prepare for individuals in the throes of an opiate addiction that have the potential to exhibit aberrant behaviors. from anger and confusion to violence, and create an escalating event. Sometimes these patients arrive voluntarily seeking treatment, but often they are rushed to the ED after an overdose or other medical emergency.

This is an excerpt from the monthly healthcare safety resource Briefings on Hospital Safety. Subscribers can read the rest of the article here. Non-subscribers can find out more about the journal, its benefits, and how to subscribe by clicking here.
 



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