GALLIPOLIS — Early last week, health care patients in Gallia County became the first to enroll in a pilot program that officials hope will eventually be utilized by health care facilities throughout the nation to combat prescription drug abuse and improve patient safety.
The program, being launched through a public-private partnership between regional health care provider Holzer Health System and CrossChx, a company based in Gallipolis, is known as the Biometric Enrollment and Verification Prescription System and will allow doctors to compare health records from multiple sources to help determine the eligibility of a patient to receive a prescription for medication.
CrossChx (pronounced “cross checks”) will provide the technology to track health information and will, specifically, use biometrics, or the identification of an individual through his or her inherit traits — in this case, fingerprints — to allow prescribers to receive real-time patient information.
Participants in the program will be patients of Holzer and, according to officials, positive response has already been felt among the patients of the urgent care unit who began signing up last Monday.
Reportedly, Holzer and CrossChx have committed $900,000 in resources to the program, and the State of Ohio will provide $500,000 from the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) through performance bonuses that Ohio achieved for increasing enrollment and retention of eligible children in Medicaid.
During a press conference last week, Orman Hall, director of the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, spoke about the epidemic that is prescription drug abuse and the possibility that exists within the pilot program to help combat this issue.
According to Hall, during the span between 1997 and 2010, a 10-fold increase in the use of prescription opiates can be seen within the overall health care system, and, during that period, a 400-percent increase in the number of opiate overdoses can also measured.
Hall, who also reported on his recent trip to a neonatal intensive care unit at a health care facility in Columbus, spoke about his hope that the program can make a difference in the shocking statistics surrounding prescription drug abuse.
“Just this past week, I had an opportunity to visit the neonatal intensive care unit at Grant Hospital in Columbus and Grant Hospital is saying that 30 percent — almost one out of every three of those babies in that unit — their mothers were addicted to opiates and their babies are withdrawing from prescription opiates or heroin,” Hall said. “So, the problem is severe and this is one of a number of steps that we believe are going to make a profound difference in how our state is combating the problem of both opiate and prescription drug addiction in Ohio.”
CrossChx Chairman Sean Lane, who is also the founder of BTS (Battlefield Telecommunications Systems), made remarks during the conference and spoke about how the technology used by his companies on the battlefield can now be utilized locally to combat the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs.
“Our technology and our companies have generally focused on preparing the battlespace in wars against terrorism in both Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s where we spent a lot of our time developing technology and using technology to combat terrorism to find bad guys on the battlefield,” Lane said. “We have now adapted that technology and we’re now participating in this search here in Gallia County against prescription drug abuse.
“The CrossChx system is not only one that is going to help cut down on the abuse of prescription drugs, but also as an authentication and identity protection system for patients, health care systems, all around the nation,” he said. “We plan to be an integral part of health care exchanges to ensure that patients’ medical records are shared across multiple hospitals and health systems.”
Also to speak at the event were program advocates, Greg Moody, director of the Governor’s Office of Health Transformation, who represented Governor John Kasich’s administration, as well as State Representative Ryan Smith (R-Gallipolis) and State Senator Bob Peterson (R-Sabina) who spoke on the broader aspect of the program and the hopeful economic impact that an ongoing, high-tech project could have on the local economy.
“I ran for office not to tackle the drug problem. I ran for office to tackle the jobs problem and the most exciting thing for me is that this is a jobs issue. This is creating high-tech jobs and as this program does what we hope it does — rolls out state-wide, nationally — we think it is a great opportunity to create jobs in Gallia County, in southern Ohio — high-tech jobs. It will be using our people to solve a state problem and national problem. I’m very excited about what this can accomplish,” Peterson said.
On behalf of Holzer, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Governors, T. Wayne Munro, M.D., stated that the program will not only help to combat the drug abuse problem via the improvement of patient identification, it will also streamline their service to patients whose medical records will be tied directly to one person — records that can be accessed painlessly and quickly.
Munro further commented that, thus far, the patients who have enrolled in the program are happy to have their medical identification further protected through the program.
“If you have your credit card stolen, yes, it is an inconvenience because you have to wait until you get a new card, but the bank or the credit card company takes care of any fraudulent charges. If you have your medical ID stolen and there’s fraudulent charges on your ID, there’s nothing that covers you. You’re it, and you’re responsible for thousands, and, maybe, tens of thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges. It is a nightmare to get that straightened out,” Munro said. “This is going to protect against that and if we can grow this program and make it state-wide, nationwide, it will virtually stop identity theft.”
According to officials, at the end of the pilot, a closing report will be submitted that evaluates the effectiveness of the project.