How can broadband help with the opioid crisis? Minnesota has a way!

By providing a way to get best practices to many people! mHealth Intelligence reports…

Critics may be bemoaning the slow adoption rate of telehealth services for substance abuse treatment, but one network of healthcare providers in Minnesota is making strides with a connected care platform – and planning an expansion.

The Minnesota Department of Health’s (MDH) Opioid Prevention Pilot Project, launched in 2017 with $1 million in state funding, has seen success in reducing patient pill use while increasing both the numbers of Minnesotans getting treatment and the rural providers able to provide that care. Now Gov. Tim Walz wants to add 20 communities to the eight-community program and expand the telemedicine service to allow more participation.

“The early success and proven track record of these pilot projects is encouraging,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said in a recent news release. “By scaling up the effort, we hope to bring the positive impact to many more communities across the state.”

Here’s more about the network…

In Minnesota, the hub of this hub-and-spoke telemedicine network is CHI St. Gabriel’s Family Medical Center in Little Falls. Officials there say the program has helped the clinic reduce patient pill use by 724,000 pills per year, tapered about 670 patients off of controlled substance prescriptions and now provides about 90 patients medication-assisted treatment.

Based on the success of the clinic’s three-year program, state officials created the eight-member Project ECHO pilot in 2017. It consists of the Alexandria Clinic at Douglas County Hospital, Carris Health Redwood Falls Clinic, Chippewa County Montevideo Hospital, Fairview Mesaba Clinics in Hibbing, FirstLight Health System in Mora, Lake Region Healthcare in Fergus Falls, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and Riverwood Healthcare Center of Aitkin/McGregor.

Through the online platform, each participating community convenes teams of pharmacists, physicians, social workers, nurse care coordinators, mental health professionals and others. They review strategies used by CHI St. Gabriel’s, including reducing the inappropriate use of opioids through care coordination, addressing unmet social service needs, education and assistance for providers, proper opioid disposal and engaging resources outside the health system.

Based on six months of data, the program has helped those communities cut patient pill use by nearly 765,000 pills per year, while getting 147 patients needed care and adding 21 care providers to the ranks of those qualified to give MAT (medication-assisted treatment) therapy.

This entry was posted in Healthcare, MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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