I began work on a new project this year that has become an evolving resource for our company’s clients and of which I have become very proud. Since I have only been at Preferred Medical for a little over a year – the same amount of time that I’ve been involved in work comp – it has been a learning process for me. However, it has also opened my eyes to the dangers and challenges that injured workers face today. The project includes alerts to prescription drug dangers by pulling information out of a sea of data to provide vital insights to care for the entire injured worker.
The driving force behind several of the alerts built into the report focus on opioid use, their side effects, and the challenges people prescribed these drugs face. While developing these alerts and digging into the details that cause the alert to trigger, I began to make connections in my own life.
My dad has suffered from chronic back and neck pain for as long as I can remember. He had major surgeries over the past two years to try to address these issues. He has been prescribed numerous pain medications and muscle relaxants over the years. Some have helped and some have caused challenging side effects. Some drugs make it hard for him to sleep or make him sleep too much, both of which make it hard for him to work. Some cause weight gain and some cause him to lose his appetite. And that’s just a few of the impacts to my dad’s life from these medications. Unfortunately, he has been stuck in this vicious circle for years.
My work on these reports began to affect my perception of his recovery. I found myself asking more questions when seeing first-hand the reality of someone living the life that causes alerts in a report I have been working on. “Claimants” being prescribed high doses and potential dangerous combinations of pain meds, muscle relaxants and gabapentinoids was now relatable to my own family. The greatest impact was to see the issues that come from lack of treatment for the whole patient.
The biggest change, however, has been the change in conversation. My family and I have had open and honest conversations about the risks and challenges of opioid prescriptions and dangerous drug combinations. There is a peace of mind in knowing there are those working to bring these issues to light and that we are not alone in facing them.
I think the most important part of the conversation change for him and my entire family is how to communicate with his physician. We have discovered how to ask questions to ensure that we have a clear understanding of the “what” and “why” for each prescription and the full effects it will have. My dad has always wanted a life without pain medications and has recently began to explore alternatives that may be available to him. I think he is more open to the possibility, as well as the necessity, for alternatives because he has a better idea of the dangers of his current treatment path and is determined to find another way.
This has indeed been challenging for my family to learn and experience with him. But while it is challenging for us, I have also found myself grateful for the opportunity to be part of something at work that can affect change for the better. This report pulls back the curtain to show all of the messy details of the effects on real people. I can personally attest to the fact that it does just that.
Written by Jennifer Trevino, Business Analyst.