Published by Healthcare Analytics News

“I’m not pro-opioid or anti-opioid, I’m pro-patient,” Stanford University’s Sean Mackey, MD, PhD, said early in his speech at a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) symposium yesterday. The meeting, held in conjunction with a competitive “code-a-thon,” was focused on the role data can play in the fight against the opioid crisis.

Mackey is Chief of the Division of Pain Medicine at Stanford, and he also co-chaired the HHS’s National Pain Strategy. He understands that opioid abuse is a major problem in the US, but also that the drugs are often helpful in treating another public health scourge: chronic pain, which 1 in 3 Americans suffer from.

To address the problem, Mackey said, healthcare needs to look at all of the aspects of pain management and opioid use to understand how patients can be given effective relief without being put at risk for lifelong addiction. A learning health system that incorporates science, informatics, incentives, and culture can be used to improve protocols over time. But to build one, clinicians and researchers need data.

“At the core of all of this, we called out for better quality data, and we need to do better and make that data actionable,” he said.

Stanford’s Collaborative Health Outcomes Information Registry (CHOIR) system is a response to that need. The system’s simple interface allows participating clinicians to input qualitative data from each of their patient visits to understand how those suffering from chronic pain are responding to treatment.