Companies Use Data Analysis to Fight Prescription Drug Abuse

A growing number of companies are using data analysis to fight prescription drug abuse, The Wall Street Journal reports. Many of these firms were represented at last week’s National Rx Drug Abuse Summit in Orlando.

They are combining medical research and guidelines with computer analysis. Most of the companies are insurers and medical bill review consultants for firms that pay workers’ compensation claims. They say their goal is to lower healthcare costs, improve safe use of medication and identify people who might abuse painkillers before they become addicted.

Some doctors say they are concerned these companies may be more interested in lowering costs than in patients’ wellbeing. “One person doesn’t heal the same way another person does. Treatment has to be directed by the physician—not the insurer,” said Andrea Trescot, past president of the nonprofit industry group American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians.

One company, Rising Medical Solutions Inc., uses algorithms to determine injured workers’ risk of abuse, based on a 30-question survey. They are asked about their optimism about recovery, previous history of injury, whether they smoke, and other risk factors for painkiller addiction. The company also evaluates the amount of time between when an injury occurs and when it was reported. A delay could signal a greater potential for abuse, the article notes.

Another firm, PMSI Inc., creates a risk scorecard that compares a company’s results to other firms in the area, or in a similar industry. If PMSI determines a patient has the potential to abuse painkillers, a doctor employed by the company will call up the physician treating the patient to discuss the case.

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