Convening Healthcare Leaders to Address Opioid Misuse and Abuse

AAOA member the Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC) brings together innovative leaders from the payer, provider, manufacturer, distributor, health information technology, post-acute and other health industry spheres. The organization’s mission is to build a multi-sector consensus on how to make our healthcare system more affordable, accessible and quality driven through applying their collective expertise to public policymaking. Allied Against Opioid Abuse (AAOA) interviewed Mary Grealy, President of HLC, to discuss how different sectors of the healthcare system are collaborating to prevent the misuse and abuse of prescription opioids.  

AAOA: How is HLC engaged in helping to impact the opioid epidemic?

Mary Grealy: Addressing opioid misuse and addiction is a complex, multifaceted challenge that doesn’t fall within the purview of any single healthcare sector. At HLC, we understood that our member companies were engaged individually in bringing solutions to this health crisis, so we believed that our organization was in an advantageous position to look at this problem holistically and convene the broad range of experts who could develop a comprehensive solution set. So, in 2018, we hosted a National Opioid Solutions Summit, involving not just HLC members, but also a wide spectrum of private sector experts and government leaders, and then produced a “Roadmap for Action” with more than 30 recommended legislative, regulatory and private sector actions.


AAOA: Why is it important that leaders across different sectors of the healthcare system work together to build awareness about and positively impact the opioid epidemic?

Grealy: The opioid crisis defies simple solutions. We need to combat rising rates of misuse and addiction, but we also need to maintain access to treatment for the millions of Americans struggling with chronic and acute pain. So, the effort to combat this crisis must involve prevention, safe prescribing, access to evidence-based treatment for those suffering from substance use disorder, research and development of non-addicting pain management alternatives, improved use of data to proactively prevent misuse and addiction, and patient-centered care coordination to restore health and prevent relapses. There is a vital role to play for every health sector and we’ll be more effective if we do it in an integrated fashion.


AAOA: Where have you seen examples of different partnerships being developed to address the opioid epidemic?

Grealy: Of course, AAOA is a perfect example of a coalition in which diverse organizations come together and their respective strengths can complement each other to make a difference. We joined AAOA because so much of the work to overcome the opioid crisis must be done at the individual patient and consumer level, and it’s impossible to overstate the importance of education and credible information.

HLC is also one of more than 100 organizations from the worlds of healthcare, community organizations, academia and non-profits joining the National Academy of Medicine in its Action Collaborative on Countering the U.S. Opioid Epidemic. This collaboration is taking a broad-based approach to the crisis that we believe is so necessary — looking at health professional education and training, prescribing guidelines, prevention, treatment and recovery, and use of data and metrics.


AAOA: What more can stakeholders across business, government and non-profit organizations do to address the opioid epidemic?

Grealy: It is extremely important to note that engagement on this issue isn’t and shouldn’t be limited to healthcare companies and organizations. The opioid crisis is touching every aspect of our lives, from workplaces to schools to communities, and we can all be involved in some way to help educate people about responsible pain management, the risks associated with opioid misuse, safe storage of drugs, and where to get help if you need it. AAOA has produced an extremely valuable collection of resources and toolkits that provide important information to patients, providers and pharmacies. One of our HLC member companies, Leidos, has also created a pledge for CEOs of companies from any and every industry. Those signing the pledge commit to creating a workplace in which it is safe to have conversations about addiction, to educate employees about the dangers of improper use of opioids, and to support access to treatment and recovery services. We are very pleased to see how many companies are signing this pledge.


Note: Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.