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Dr. Winfree Helps Draw ‘Roadmap’ for Addressing Opioid Crisis

The opioid epidemic is an enormous problem in urgent need of solutions. But its very size and complexity puts it outside the scope of any one discipline or group. Addressing it requires collaboration among healthcare leaders, doctors and nurses, pharmacists, addiction specialists, health insurance companies, regulators and lawmakers.

That’s why neurosurgeon Dr. Christopher Winfree added his expertise to a summit of just such a group—the “Opioid Crisis Solutions Summit” of the National Dialogue for Healthcare Innovation. Dr. Winfree was there to represent the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.

Participants at the Opioid Crisis Solutions Summit came up with more than 30 meaningful and far-reaching recommendations for addressing the opioid crisis. Together, the recommendations form a “Roadmap for Action,” which has just been released to the public. Specific recommendations include e-prescribing all controlled substances by 2020; sharing real-time prescribing data among healthcare providers; making Substance Use Disorder (SUD) treatment more accessible, especially in medically underserved areas; and ensuring that insurance and reimbursement policies do not create barriers to a patient’s access to non-opioid pain management.

These actionable solutions are targeted to three groups: healthcare leaders, regulators and lawmakers. Members of these first two groups that attended the event gave input on the crisis from a variety of perspectives and helped to craft the recommendations that will assist colleagues across the country in addressing it. The other group, lawmakers, have expressed an eagerness to receive well-informed, specific solutions that address the many facets of this complex problem. Dr. Winfree reports that “there is a flurry of opioid legislation in the House currently. It sounds like some [lawmakers] are listening.”

Dr. Winfree is a neurosurgical pain specialist here at Columbia University Irving Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. That means that he surgically treats patients with certain types of chronic pain. (Did you know that chronic pain and short-term pain are actually very different? Read more here.)

Dr. Winfree also performs other types of surgery, such as peripheral nerve surgery, and he understands the short-term pain control needs of postoperative patients. So Dr. Winfree brings the perspective that any set of solutions to the opioid crisis must balance the needs of patients who have short-term or chronic pain with the safety of patients and their communities. That translates into action items such as coordinating integrated care of chronic pain (for example, exploring non-opioid pain management), educating patients and their families on opioids, and improving hospitals’ stewardship and disposal of opioids.

“The opioid crisis is claiming too many lives, devastating too many families and affecting too many communities,” says Mary R. Grealy, president of the Healthcare Leadership Council. It is Dr. Winfree’s hope that the summit’s work on the Roadmap will help our communities and our country address the problem.

You can read the full “Roadmap for Action” developed at the summit here.

Read more about Dr. Winfree’s work on the opioid crisis here.

Read more about Dr. Winfree on his bio page here.

patient journey

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