Methadone: A Flicker Of Light In The Dark

Methadone: A Flicker Of Light In The Dark

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 Ohio using fingerprint scans to fight prescription drug abuse

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PostSubject: Ohio using fingerprint scans to fight prescription drug abuse   Mon Jul 30, 2012 3:58 pm

The fight against painkiller abuse is going high-tech in southern Ohio, where local health officials are adopting biometric tools similar to those used by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Starting this week, patients must submit to a fingerprint scan to see a doctor at one hospital system. At several pharmacies, patients must use fingerprint IDs to get their prescriptions filled.

The one-year pilot program, announced Thursday, was green-lighted in recent weeks by the state’s Republican Gov. John Kasich. If the technology works, fingerprint scans could become more commonplace in Ohio—a state where an average of 67 opioid painkillers are prescribed to every resident each year, state data show.

Sean Lane recalls how the military used fingerprint scanning at checkpoints to spot potentially dangerous people with real-time data when he was based in Afghanistan in 2007 as an Air Force intelligence officer. Now, Lane is the founder and chief technology officer of CrossChx LLC, based in his southern Ohio hometown of Gallipolis. CrossChx is providing the fingerprint devices and data-analytics muscle behind the pilot program.

Lane, a 31-year-old who was deployed five times to Afghanistan and Iraq from 2003 to 2008, owns more than a dozen intelligence companies and founded CrossChx earlier this year. He believes biometrics could help win southern Ohio’s battle against painkiller abuse.

“We kind of want to surge, like we did in Iraq, against this problem,” Lane tells the Health Blog. “In Ohio, we’re dealing with data silos, where people have data and they’re not sharing it. These are the same sharing issues we fought through in Iraq,” he says.

Using eye-scanning technology was also considered along with fingerprint scans, Lane says, but the idea was scrapped amid concerns it would make patients uncomfortable. “It’s a little too sci-fi,” Lane says.

The pilot program will be conducted at several pharmacies and Holzer Health System, a health-care provider with two hospitals in southern Ohio—a region with some of the nation’s highest levels of prescription-drug abuse. Holzer and CrossChx provided $900,000 for the pilot program. The state of Ohio pledged another $500,000.

Patient participation is voluntary and not all of the pharmacies or physician offices in southern Ohio have signed up.

So far, the pilot program has enrolled more than 100 members, with only a few declining to join, says Brent Saunders, Holzer’s chairman. After an initial four-tap set-up, future visits take seconds for a patient to check into the doctor’s office or verify their identity at the pharmacy. Any finger can be scanned.

The real-time data uploads to a patient’s electronic medical record. Such information — how many doctor’s-office visits, trips to the pharmacy, pills prescribed — is critical for helping health officials and law enforcement target diversion of drugs into the illegal market. The fingerprint biometrics could also help officials identify questionable doctors or suspect pharmacists.

“This is the first thing they’ve seen that has a chance to stop the prescription-drug problem and monitor where people are getting their prescriptions in real-time,” Holzer CEO T. Wayne Munro tells the Health Blog.

For years, states and federal officials have combated the nation’s growing painkiller problem by beefing up law enforcement units or adding prescription-drug-monitoring programs. But those tactics often focus on the widespread black market of opioid painkillers, which kicks into gear long after abusers or addicts have left the doctor’s office. Ohio’s own prescription-drug-monitoring program has a one-week lag in uploading its patient data, doctors and state officials say.

The Ohio program signals how the fight against prescription-drug abuse is becoming more individualized, at the patient level, and more pre-emptive, says Orman Hall, director of the state’s Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services.

“Currently, it’s all after the fact,” Hall tells the Health Blog. The pilot program “gives us better and more-timely information about people who are abusing,” he says.
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