Big Data Gets Opioids Off Street, More People Into Effective Treatment

If we could map drug overdoses to prevention and treatment program outcomes, we could address the $1 trillion opioid crisis in the United States. It’s called “The Science of Where,” and it was one of most fascinating Big Data demos I saw at the recent SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference.

At SAPPHIRE NOW, Dennis Jarrad, Solution Engineer at Esri, explained how the Esri Opioid Response Dashboard can help save lives.
At SAPPHIRE NOW, Dennis Jarrad explained how Big Data can help save lives and solve the opioid crisis.

Dennis Jarrad, solution engineer at Esri, explained how the Esri Opioid Response Dashboard, running on SAP HANA and using SAP Predictive Analytics, was designed to help communities tackle this devastating problem.

“We can take data and analyze it in context to see patterns,” said Jarrad. “It all begins with answering the fundamental questions of where. Where is the problem? Where can we allocate a resource? All these questions help us form a deeper, more contextual understanding of a situation.”

Getting to the Why of Addiction Problem

Of course, solving the opioids crisis is not as simple as understanding where problems exist. Healthcare providers and policymakers need to figure out why drug problems are happening. Using the U.S. opioid epidemic as an example, Jarrad showed how the Esri ArcGIS dashboard brought together real-time information from a variety of places including counties where drug activity is highest, the number of opioid prescription claims, and death tolls. Colorful “story maps” in the simulation displayed geographical trends on the dashboard, revealing vital clues for decision-makers.

“We can see that even though Appalachia has the highest death toll, there’s a big rise in the Pacific Northwest,” said Jarrad. “Taking these big data sets reveals patterns that might get overlooked on a spreadsheet.”

Communication and Empathy

In the hands of first responders, social service providers, treatment centers, and others from health and safety agencies, the dashboard becomes an important collaborative tool. They can pinpoint where overdose activity is growing by geography, correlating demographics like age. Putting that data on top of which treatments are most effective where can help communities offer more effective choices faster. Officials might decide to revamp prevention programs based on what’s working and what’s not. Jarrad also hopes the technology will help overcome the stigma surrounding getting help.

“Many people aren’t able to reach out, and get help for their drug problems, and we started our approach by creating empathy,” said Jarrad. “Our crowdsourcing template helps put a face to the problem. It provides an outlet for families to share their grief.”

Taking Opioids off the Streets

The innovative technology underneath Esri’s solution belies its simple, common sense premise: first educate people about the extent of the drug problem, and then promote, deliver and track the treatment choices that work best. Jarrod’s demo showed how one county used information from the dashboard to motivate people to get treatment, prevent overdoses and measure response rates. Easy-to-use apps helped people locate nearby drug drop-offs locations, and find treatment and pain management options, complete with directions to the nearest facility. Information from these apps is critical for providers too.

“Many drugstores find the ability to drop off prescription drugs helps get those [drugs] off the streets,” he said. “They can see where those drop-offs are. Feeding that information into the back-end system allows providers to see the results, and understand trends to target more resources towards.”

The Science of Where could give communities the edge the fight and win the battle against addiction to opioids. It’s a public health emergency we all have a stake in solving.

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