Listen to Dr. Rawat on HealthcareNOW’s “Harlow on Healthcare,” where she discusses the problems clinicians face when referring patients to behavioral health treatment and how OpenBeds is solving those problems.
Below is a transcript of the beginning of the podcast. To listen to the full podcast, click here.
Welcome to Harlow on Healthcare.
I’m David Harlow and I invite you to join me by my virtual hearth as I sit down with healthcare leaders to discuss building the future of healthcare.
Today my guest is Dr. Nishi Rawat, MD, MBA, senior vice president at Appriss Health, and co-founder of OpenBeds. She is a physician and healthcare services researcher trained in critical care and emergency medicine and on the faculty at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She has worked on issues involving behavioral health as well as critical care. And Dr. Rawat has worked with the National Institute of Drug Abuse to develop technology to service providers in addressing the opioid epidemic. OpenBeds is implemented around the country and was recently acquired by Appriss, where Dr. Rawat now leads strategy in the healthcare sector.
Well, welcome Nishi and thank you for joining us on Harlow on Healthcare.
Thank you very much for having me, David.
So, I’m interested to hear from you more about substance abuse and behavioral health needs and how they have most likely expanded given what we’ve all been experiencing this year.
Much of the country right now is isolated at home and increasingly so, given the recent infection rate, hospitalization, and number of deaths. From an economic standpoint, as you know, unemployment is at an all-time high, and we don’t see economic recovery in sight at present. So not surprisingly these conditions are detrimental to our mental health. The CDC actually surveyed about 5,000 people over the summer—so this is earlier in the pandemic around June—and they found that about 40% of people said that they were suffering from a mental health condition. So, this is anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, substance use. And of those people using substances, 13% reported that they were using more of the substances. So, we know, at least from these numbers, that people’s mental health, that it’s deteriorating.
Beyond that, the CDC recently released numbers showing that the overdose rate for all substances, that’s increased, from January to January. So, it was increasing prior to the pandemic, but their early data suggests that the pandemic may have resulted in more overdoses as well, or at least there have been more overdoses during the time of the pandemic. And we’ll know more about that as more data rolls in. There are no positive signs at present.
Sure, and even before the pandemic, in previous years, we’ve heard about a reduction in life expectancy that many have attributed to the opioid epidemic, at least in part. So that is certainly cause for concern as you see additional issues turning up in the course of the pandemic.
That’s right, David. And I don’t remember the details—I believe it was two economists who published this work—I believe it’s Caucasian males in particular. Their life expectancy has been curbed in part due to the use of substances, opioids, along with alcohol. Yeah, that’s right.
So, of course, the $64,000 question, or whatever metric we use these days, is what do we do about it? How have we addressed these issues historically? And what can we do now? Is technology some sort of saving grace for us in the current environment?
You know, it’s interesting, because historically, we have not addressed the need—treatment needs—of SUD. And by “we,” I mean, I’m referring to the medical care system, and physicians in particular. In fact, some people perceive us—again, physicians, that’s who I’m referring to—as being part of the problem, because of historic uncontrolled prescribing of opioids. I remember as a physician myself training in Baltimore, being told that one could not, or being taught rather, that one could not become addicted to opioids. That that wasn’t possible. And the disconnect between what I was being trained to understand and what I was seeing on the ground. But now, we’re much more informed as physicians. We’re prescribing opioids much more judiciously. We are prescribing non-opioid pain treatments more often. And we also have much better tools, including the prescription monitoring database and systems like OpenBeds to refer people to assessment and treatment.