Fighting the Opioid Crisis with the Cloud, Open Data, and Related Technologies

This blog post was written in partnership with Amazon Web Services.

42,000 people in America dead. Every year.

That’s just one of many terrifying statistics detailing the current crisis in the U.S., where it is estimated that 115 people are dying every day from overdoses related to opioids.

And the epidemic continues to spiral. Overdose deaths from opioids, including both prescriptions and illicit drugs, have increased by more than five times since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It’s not just the fatal consequences of opioids that are a priority for public health officials, however. Beyond the mortality rate, surviving victims of opioid and substance abuse often battle a string of other interrelated conditions like homelessness, behavioral health disorders, and more. CDC estimates that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year.

Because of shame resulting from continuing social stigmas, some are less likely to seek help with their addiction. In fact, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2016, an estimated 21 million people aged 12 or older needed substance use treatment in the U.S., but only 3.8 million of them received such treatment.

Given all of this, many are left wondering: what is the path forward?

Cloud-based technologies may offer one option, according to Amazon Web Services (AWS). In June 2018 at the AWS Public Sector Summit, AWS convened the first technology-focused Opioid Crisis Council, where stakeholders from across public sector and industry who play key roles in addressing the opioid epidemic gathered to identify common challenges and explore disruptive solutions.

The Council’s mission is to share ideas for attacking this complex issue and execute an actionable plan using “Tech for Good.” By working with a cross-sectional group spanning various levels of government, the panel will also highlight local use cases in communities that deploy resulting solutions to achieve measurable results on the ground.

“At this unique crossroads we are determined to bring together the collective best thinking of technologists, policy makers, medical practitioners, strategists, educators, and community leaders to contribute their respective expertise and make a difference,” said Michael Jackson, Leader, Public Health & U.S. Elections at AWS. “We’ll focus on gaining the best understanding of the problems that this crisis creates, and we’ll work to develop solutions that are only possible through our collective efforts. Together, the AWS Opioid Crisis Council will identify these areas of focus and the projects that can help change the trajectory of the opioid crisis in America.”

The Council’s initial working session highlighted a range of contributing factors to the epidemic. Participants explored addictive behavioral health, social determinants, public safety, and imbalanced payer systems.

The consensus? Many of these issues can be addressed through improved data accessibility, interoperability, and intelligence. Open data is key to moving forward and reducing silos in critical information. “If data is open and sharable between research, government, and industry, it can facilitate improved collaborations and place resources into citizens’ hands faster,” said Jackson.

“Our nation’s ability to effectively respond to and prevent opioid addiction requires data-driven strategic interventions,” said Lynn Gallagher, Cabinet Secretary, New Mexico Department of Health. “The New Mexico Department of Health has been working hard to reduce drug overdose deaths in New Mexico, including from prescription opioids. We are committed to reducing the loss of life to opioid overdose and ending the tragic impact that these drugs have on our families and communities.”

As part of an expansive ecosystem, AWS partners represented in the Council will innovate by improving citizen data transparency and developing solutions built on AWS for real-time prescription drug monitoring, lab diagnostics, resource mapping, and more. These tools will help state and local government agencies more effectively monitor and regulate controlled substances while efficiently allocating resources for earlier interventions and better outcomes.

Partners will continue to work, using open data approaches and publicly-accessible open data sets, to make collaboration the norm among the stakeholders in this mission. Some examples of projects that AWS partners are spearheading include:

  • Creating a cloud-based information service that applies artificial intelligence to healthcare data
  • Aggregating data from local hospitals, police departments, community detox centers, treatment providers, housing and employment providers, and peer recovery centers in over 160 jurisdictions across the U.S.
  • Building a comprehensive prescription drug monitoring program using AWS, which is now host to more than 40 participating states. With the appropriate interstate agreements in place, the tool makes it possible to examine opioid records any time a doctor prescribes, or a pharmacist dispenses, an opioid-related drug

By sharing open data and analyzing it in platforms and programs like these, results could promise richer data from which to derive deeper insights in a secure and efficient way. And with cloud technology as the host for these efforts, there will be more opportunity to serve solutions to the public at scale. The Registry of Open Data on AWS makes it easy to find datasets made publicly available through AWS services.

For regular updates, AWS and its partners united in this fight will publish a series of blog posts on GovLoop.com demonstrating how cloud-based solutions can help accelerate efforts to eradicate the opioid crisis. Previous posts on this topic have explored how open datasets may be leveraged; how cloud is taking on the epidemic; the ways in which Alexa can be used to discover relevant facts; and the origins of the AWS Opioid Crisis Council.

To learn more about how open data hosted on AWS’s cloud is helping create solutions for the opioid crisis and more, contact  contact [email protected] or visit AWS’s Open Data page.

Leave a Comment

One Comment

Leave a Reply