By John Lavey | Hammock President and COO

In the middle of a dinner conversation recently, a friend had to leave to take an emergency call. “Drug diversion issue,” he explained when he returned to the table 10 minutes later. Drug diversion is a nicer way of saying that someone stole drugs to use or sell.

In this case, an employee of his hospital management company had stolen opioids from a hospital dispensary to sell. The crime had been going on for awhile, and video surveillance finally caught the individual responsible.

Whether it is in our work in healthcare or in our personal lives, the opioid crisis continues to demand attention—and wreak havoc. The prevention of opioid abuse is among the top three or four topics for which we’re developing content for our healthcare provider clients. And on a personal level, in the past three years, I’ve been to two funerals for the family members of friends whose cause of death was opioid overdose.

The statistics are staggering: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are an estimated 260 million pain prescriptions—one for 9 out of every 10 adults—and the number of overdoses has increased 3.4 times in the past 15 years alone. A lot of finger-pointing took place in the aftermath of this week’s Associated Press investigative article about the sustained multimillion dollar, 50-state marketing and lobbying efforts of pharmaceutical manufacturers to prevent legislation that curbed sales of opioids.

However, the problem is certainly not the manufacturers’ alone. To focus on big bad pharma is reductive. Clinicians and providers, as well as patients themselves, are also responsible for addressing the epidemic. Yes, the marketing dollars spent to push opioids should be addressed, but the solution to the crisis also involves a serious commitment and investment in communications: internal communications within provider organizations as well as provider to patient communications.

While some see this problem as merely a workplace/employee assistance issue, it’s time to shine much more light on this issue as a population health and patient care challenge.

Bottom Line for Marketers: Recognize that addressing the opioid epidemic is a communications challenge demanding action. What is your your organization’s role in addressing this national crisis?








Photo | Thinkstock

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