Measuring What Matters: How the Laboratory Contributes Value in the Opioid Crisis

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J Appl Lab Med


With over 20 years of the opioid crisis, our collective response has evolved to address the ongoing needs related to the management of opioid use and opioid use disorder. There has been an increasing recognition of the need for standardized metrics to evaluate organizational management and stewardship. The clinical laboratory, with a wealth of objective and quantitative health information, is uniquely poised to support opioid stewardship and drive valuable metrics for opioid prescribing practices and opioid use disorder (OUD) management. To identify laboratory-related insights that support these patient populations, a collection of 5 independent institutions, under the umbrella of the Clinical Laboratory 2.0 movement, developed and prioritized metrics. Using a structured expert panel review, laboratory experts from 5 institutions assessed possible metrics as to their relative importance, usability, feasibility, and scientific acceptability based on the National Quality Forum criteria. A total of 37 metrics spanning the topics of pain and substance use disorder (SUD) management were developed with consideration of how laboratory insights can impact clinical care. Monitoring these metrics, in the form of summative reports, dashboards, or embedded in laboratory reports themselves may support the clinical care teams and health systems in addressing the opioid crisis. The clinical insights and standardized metrics derived from the clinical laboratory during the opioid crisis exemplifies the value proposition of clinical laboratories shifting into a more active role in the healthcare system. This increased participation by the clinical laboratories may improve patient safety and reduce healthcare costs related to OUD and pain management.

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