Ohio professor publishes study on hospital strategies for opioid epidemic

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A researcher at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine has published a study on what strategies hospitals should adopt to address the opioid epidemic.

Berkeley Franz, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the university, along with fellow researchers Cory Cronin, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Ohio University’s College of Health Sciences and Professions; and Jose Pagan, Ph.D., professor of public health policy and management at New York University, co-authored the article “What Strategies Are Hospitals Adopting to Address the Opioid Epidemic? Evidence From a National Sample of Nonprofit Hospitals,” that focuses on what hospitals are doing to combat the opioid epidemic.

“Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the opioid epidemic was the most vexing health problem,” Franz said. “High rates of addiction were cited as one of the main reasons that American life expectancy declined in multiple years, something we rarely see. At the same time, opioid misuse increased to be the greatest causes of preventable death. This study shows that hospitals can play a clear and important role in implementing interventions and effectively treating patients, especially if they are willing to do so on site.”

The study is part of Franz’s ongoing research to understand how hospitals are dealing with the most critical public health needs in their communities. Researchers looked at data from a 20 percent sample of all U.S. hospitals to determine how they are addressing opioid abuse.

The group found that hospitals often don’t do evidence-based programs despite evidence that treating the patient at the hospital leads to more effective treatment and reduces overdoses.

“With opioid misuse, people often end up in hospitals for care, which is a great place to address other, secondary health consequences that come from the misuse,” Franz explained. “Aside from an actual overdose itself, people can get infections at the injection site, heart and skin infections, infectious diseases linked to intravenous drug use, and more. By taking care of these individuals in a hospital setting, medical professionals can also address these issues as well as introduce treatment for the underlying substance use disorder.”

Researchers found that nonprofit hospitals invest in clinical strategies and risk education but could do more in medication-assisted treatment and adopt harm reduction initiatives, like distributing naloxone and offering syringe exchanges.

The study was published in Public Health Reports, the official journal of the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service.

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