AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

The Opioid Council: Public Health Leaders Address Addiction

Listen now on SoundCloud: AWS Public Sector Podcast: Waging positive change with opioid addiction | Interview w/ Appriss Health and hc1


To kick off the AWS Opioid Crisis Council’s inaugural meeting, AWS public health leader, Michael Jackson, convened a panel of healthcare experts at the AWS Public Sector Summit in Washington, DC. Government health officials, research scientists, pharmacy executives, and industry pioneers examined proposed solutions with open data, and shared ideas for attacking this complex issue. All stakeholders rallied around a common customer: our community.

The three-hour working session highlighted a range of contributing factors to the epidemic. Participants explored addictive behavioral health, social determinants, public safety, and imbalanced payer systems. The consensus: many of these issues can be addressed through improved data accessibility, interoperability, and intelligence.

“Our nation’s ability to effectively respond to and prevent opioid addiction requires data-driven strategic interventions. The New Mexico Department of Health has been working hard to reduce drug overdose deaths in New Mexico, including from prescription opioids. We are committed to reducing the loss of life to opioid overdose and ending the tragic impact that these drugs have on our families and communities.” – Lynn Gallagher, Cabinet Secretary, New Mexico Department of Health

The June 12, 2018, proposed mandate by Congress underscores the use of open data to bring better visibility to information from and by stakeholders combating the crisis.

“H.R. 4284 directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create a public and easily accessible electronic dashboard linking to all of the nationwide efforts to combat the opioid crisis. In addition, the legislation creates an Interagency Substance Use Disorder Coordinating Committee to review and coordinate opioid use disorder (OUD) and other substance use disorder (SUD) research, services, and prevention activities across all relevant Federal agencies, evaluate the effectiveness of these activities, and make specific recommendations for actions that agencies can take to better coordinates the administration of services for patients with OUD and SUD.”

If data is open and sharable between research, government, and industry, it can facilitate faster development and get resources into citizens hands faster.

It takes a village

The effects of opioid addiction continue to ripple throughout the public healthcare system and our collective experience. The crisis is responsible for one in every five deaths of young adults and claims the lives of 115 Americans every day.

It will require broad cooperation to make impactful change. Government entities, academia, industry, and nonprofits will need to mutually implement safe and secure ways to manage and share data. All parties will need to better understand each other’s respective challenges to come up with a comprehensive and sustainable solution.

Zeroing in on addiction

A multi-modality approach for tackling the prevention and treatment of – and recovery from – the underlying disease of addiction is key. And open data initiatives are unequivocally part of the solution, as they lead to better-informed decisions each step of the way. Still, with the state of uncoordinated healthcare, and the overhanging issue of stigma and judgement, the challenges are systemic.

The AWS Opioid Crisis Council strives to bring more transparency to addiction both by building momentum for collective priorities, and by analyzing large datasets to extrapolate insights from a variety of sources. This will begin to solve for:

  • Improved accessibility of medical records between disparate healthcare providers and first responders for a holistic picture of a patient’s history;
  • Identifying fraud using analytics, and the improved use of prescription drug-monitoring programs;
  • Accessibility of programs and information for individuals battling addiction;
  • Seamless integration of electronic health records and prescription monitoring data, with the promotion of traditional tools, as well as innovations like artificial intelligence and machine learning;
  • Understanding recidivism by analyzing arrest and prison data, as well as medical records that may proactively identify potential repeat offenders. This is coupled with leveraging impactful drug-diversion programs before relapse.

Sustaining the dialogue

This first Council meeting was a step in the right direction. Still, the epidemic rages on. By facilitating ongoing dialogue between some of the brightest minds in healthcare, and through accountability of outcomes and proposed solutions, the Council aims to establish a sustainable infrastructure for better understanding this complex issue.

If you are interested in learning more about the Council, or in participating in an upcoming meeting, please reach out to PublicHealth@amazon.com.