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The Numbers Behind America’s Opioid Epidemic

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Opioid Epidemic overdose map

The Numbers Behind America’s Opioid Epidemic

Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50, who are now more likely to die from a drug overdose than from car accidents or firearms. The United States has the dubious distinction of having the highest percentage of drug-related deaths in the world.

While opioid abuse is a nationwide problem, there are specific areas that are being hit harder by this epidemic. Using the location data above, from NORC at the University of Chicago, we can see clusters of counties that have an extremely high rate of overdose deaths. Between 2012 and 2016, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio saw a combined 18,000 deaths related to opioid abuse.

A sharp increase in prescribed opioid-based painkillers and the rise of illegal fentanyl – which is up to 50 times stronger than heroin – has unleashed the worst public health crisis in American history.

It’s a problem that can be tough to understand, but by delving into the data, some key observations emerge.

Doctors Prescribed a lot of Pain Killers

Beginning in the 1980s, prescription opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone were heavily marketed as a treatment for pain, and at the time, the risk of addiction to these substances was downplayed. Opioid prescriptions nearly tripled between 1991 and 2011.

opioid sales

Sales of these powerful painkillers are beginning to drop, in part because the risk of addiction has now been widely publicized. Another decelerating factor is the crackdown on clinics and pharmacies that were over-dispensing painkillers, in some cases directly feeding the elicit drug market.

In 2015, nearly 100 million Americans were prescribed painkillers by their doctor. A recent survey showed one-third of people who abused prescription painkillers in the past year got pills directly from a physician.

Source of opioids

This abundance of pills impacts the community at large when excess pills are sold, stolen, or simply given to others. In fact, receiving painkillers from a friend or family member was the most common gateway to abusing opioids.

Fentanyl is Killing a lot of People

If doctors have been prescribing opioids for decades, what is causing this recent spike in overdoses? The answer, for the most part, is fentanyl.

This synthetic opioid presents a problem because it’s extremely potent – it only takes about 2 milligrams to overdose on the drug. Since much of the fentanyl on the market is sourced illegally, doses can and do exceed this amount on a regular basis.

As a result, overdose deaths related to opioids have skyrocketed in recent years:

Overdoses by opioid drug type

Overdoses are the tip of the Iceberg

The thousands of overdose deaths around the country are the most extreme symptom of the opioid epidemic, but the problem runs much deeper.

In 2017, there were over 11 million “opioid misusers” in the United States. To put that number in perspective, that’s equivalent to the entire population of Ohio. In fact, the problem is so widespread, that it’s suspected to be influencing workforce participation rates.

The health care burden of the crisis is also staggering. The cost of opioid abuse ranges from $10,000 to $20,000 in annual medical costs per patient.

The hard truth is that, unless bold action is taken, the opioid epidemic is projected to claim nearly 500,000 lives over the next decade.

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Healthcare

How Millennial Doctors Are Transforming Medicine

Today’s doctors are increasingly young and diverse, and skilled at using digital tools. How will they disrupt the healthcare landscape in years to come?

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How Millennial Doctors Are Transforming Medicine

Changing healthcare models, groundbreaking advancements in the health technology sector, and shifting standards of patient care—they’re all contributing to a new era of medicine. But arguably one of the biggest changes will be the faces that greet us at a clinic or hospital.

Today’s infographic from Publicis Health illustrates the emerging generation of millennial doctors, and why they’re on the cusp of transforming the healthcare industry.

The Changing Face of Medicine

The doctor is in, but it’s probably not who you’re thinking of. Most people expect to see an older white male as their healthcare provider, yet today’s physicians are straying from this stereotype:

  • Increasingly diverse
    44% of U.S. medical school graduates in 2018 were of a racial minority background.
  • Millennial women
    61% of physicians under the age of 35 are females.
  • Digital-focused
    They’re adept at practicing medicine with digital tools, like electronic health records and telemedicine.

These younger doctors face intense financial pressure from student loans as they enter the workforce—an average of $190,000 to be precise—and it’s part of the reason that they’re more likely than their Gen X and Boomer counterparts to take jobs in hospital networks.

Shifting practices are also altering interactions between these new doctors and their patients. As patients increasingly behave like consumers, they have to keep pace with their demands for shared decision-making and higher personalization.

  • Millennial doctors spend over 8 hours a day on screens: 5 hours using
    electronic health records, and 3 hours more consulting external search websites.
  • 37% of them also rely on social networks and message boards for work, compared to 25% of their peers aged 55 and above.

The silver lining? These new doctors are digital natives first, which means they’re comfortable using tools to help them practice medicine more efficiently than their predecessors.

Bridging the Gap for Millennial Doctors

The new profile of healthcare providers are seeing the lines between their work settings and everyday lives being increasingly blurred. When they don their “white coat” persona, millennial doctors are aware that they’re always under the microscope.

  • 77% of patients rely on online reviews before choosing a physician
  • 80% of consumers trust online reviews alongside personal recommendations
  • 60% of consumers read four or more reviews before deciding on a doctor

As consumers themselves, millennial physicians are also constantly bombarded with content. They’re active on social media during their “blue jeans” moments, allowing them to engage with patients even in their downtime. This entirely new environment propels their healthcare decision-making in radical ways.

Credible channels, actionable data dashboards, personalized communication, and patient-centric tools all contribute towards the industry’s attempts to bridge this gap for millennial doctors and their patients—to reach them at the right place, at the right time.

Navigating Transformative Forces in HealthcareHow Big Data Will Unlock the Potential of HealthcareHow Tech is Changing How Healthcare Must Communicate With PatientsThe Amazonification of HealthcareHow Artificial Intelligence is Transforming Clinical Trial RecruitmentPH6 - NotActivePH7 Active

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Chart of the Week

The 10 Breakthrough Technologies That Will Define 2019

Which innovations will dominate headlines in 2019? According to Bill Gates, watch for these 10 breakthrough technologies to change the world.

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The 10 Breakthrough Technologies That Will Define 2019

Gone are the days of turning stones into spears. With the advent of new technologies, we’ve learned to develop tools that not only make living faster and easier every day, but also improve the future of humanity as a whole.

Today’s Chart of the Week draws from the MIT Technology Review, which features Bill Gates’ predictions for the top 10 breakthrough inventions that will capture headlines in 2019.

Top 10 Breakthrough Technologies

1. Gut Probe in a Pill
These swallowable devices can detect and potentially prevent diseases that cause malnutrition and stunted growth in millions of children worldwide.

2. Custom Cancer Vaccines
Personalized cancer vaccines, targeting only the cancerous cells and leave healthy cells alone, could help ensure faster recovery times and pose fewer risks to patients.

3. Meat-free Burgers
Plant-based and lab-grown food products will ideally alleviate the environmental impact of the livestock industry.

4. Smooth-talking AI assistants
The AI assistants of the future will have even more human-like conversations to personally engage customers. Companies would see measurable benefits, with just one breakthrough here garnering a 5% jump in productivity.

5. Sanitation without sewers
Improperly drained sewage causes death in one out of every nine children. Sanitation that doesn’t require sewers would not only prevent exposure diseases but also help turn waste into useful products like fertilizer.

6. ECG on your wrist
While most medical ECGS have up to 12 nodes to detect abnormalities, today’s wearables typically have only one. An ECG on the wrist would help reduce the risk of heart disease by monitoring changes and patterns in daily life.

7. Robot Dexterity
Advancements in robotics will enable the natural dexterity required to complete a greater range of tasks, such as helping an ailing loved one out of bed, doing the laundry, or building toys.

8. Predicting Preemies
Premature births are the leading cause of death for children under five years old. Tests to detect the possibility of a premature birth could be available in doctors’ offices in as little as five years.

9. Carbon Dioxide Catcher
Carbon dioxide catchers filter out CO₂ from the air and capture it for other uses. These include synthetic fuel creation, CO₂ for soft drinks, and plant growth in greenhouses.

10. New-wave Nuclear Power
Traditional nuclear reactors produce ~1,000 megawatts (MW), while these proposed mini-reactors would produce tens of megawatts ─ making them safer, more stable, and more financially viable for potential users.

A Vision for a Better Future

The biggest takeaway?

Seven of the 10 breakthrough technologies stem from the healthtech sector.

While several inventions on this list are years away from becoming a reality, they continue to embody the vision and passion that humans share to create and explore.

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