Prescription bottle

Officials from the New Jersey Hospital Association announced Wednesday they are investing $1.5 million into a statewide tracking tool for hospitals that will better monitor opioid prescriptions.

To better tackle the state’s addiction epidemic, which had killed 1,324 people this year in New Jersey as of Monday, state data show, the hospital association says a new tracking tool will more immediately alert health care professionals to a patient’s prescription history.

Officials said they hope the tool will help identify people who visit different medical facilities to get opioid prescriptions and any high-risk patients who may have or develop a substance-use disorder.

“We’ve seen far too many drug victims come into our (emergency departments) when it’s already too late to save them,” Cathy Bennett, association president and CEO, said in a statement. “While opioid abuse is one of our most urgent needs, this resource has the potential to be a powerful population health tool through better coordination across care settings.”

The tracking program, developed by Collective Medical, would provide automatic clinical alerts in an emergency department to notify medical workers of someone’s prescription history based on information collected through the New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program.

The alerts would activate as soon as a patient is entered into a hospital’s system. Officials said this would eliminate the time it would take for an employee to log in and manually search the state’s database.

Opioid prescriptions continue to decline nationally, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but prescribing rates still remain high and vary by county.

For every 100 people in New Jersey, 52.6 prescriptions were filled in 2016, according to the CDC. More than 4.8 million opioid prescriptions were filled in 2017, state data show.

The hospital association, which is partnering with its Health Resource and Education Trust on the new initiative, is rolling out the new program at hospitals across New Jersey, officials said.

Collective Medical’s tracking tool has been used in Washington, Oregon, California, New Mexico, Massachusetts and other states.

Association staff, along with members of the New Jersey chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, made site visits to other hospitals using the program.

“Emergency physicians witness firsthand the impacts of addiction,” Dr. Marjory Langer, president of the New Jersey chapter, said in a statement. “But, without a health record, we very rarely know who the patient is or their history — valuable information when it comes to accurately diagnosing and treatment patients.”

The hospital association’s trust would offer funding to acute-care hospitals statewide for the installation and first year use of the Collective tool. Hospitals would then have to pick up future costs associated with the tracking program.

Contact: 609-272-7022 NLeonard@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressNLeonard

Previously interned and reported for Boston.com, The Asbury Park Press, The Boston Globe

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