After opioid overdose emergency, few patients receive timely follow-up

An opioid overdose is significantly more than an isolated event. Patients who present to the emergency department (ED) with overdose have a 6% risk of dying in the following year. As with other high-risk acute conditions, patients who survive overdose are expected to receive evidence-based treatment after leaving the hospital. Whether the overdose was due to prescription opioids or injection drugs, the first occurrence or recurrent, in people with diagnosed opioid use disorder (OUD) or not—timely follow-up care can save lives. But a recent national study showed that just 16% of privately insured patients obtain that essential care. 

health care worker listens to the heartbeat of a patient with a stethoscope.

Penn LDI researchers reviewed commercial insurance claims for about 6,500 patients who presented to the ED with opioid overdose between 2011 and 2016. Only 1 in 6 obtained follow-up treatment in the 90 days after the overdose—including medication treatment, outpatient clinic visits, or rehabilitation services. For the majority of patients who had not previously received treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD), only 1 in 10 obtained follow-up.

The researchers found a striking racial disparity as well: Black patients were half as likely to access treatment as non-Hispanic white patients.

This story is by Austin S. Kilaru and Utsha Khatri. Read more at Penn LDI.