In Good Company, Aetna, Mark T. Bertolini, opioid

The Enterprise-Wide Opioid Taskforce

Sep 12 2017
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In early 2016, Aetna’s Health & Clinical Services launched the Enterprise-Wide Opioid Taskforce (EWOT). The group was instrumental in thinking through Aetna’s comprehensive strategy to combat the opioid epidemic and developing five-year goals to fight the opioid epidemic and help prevent misuse, abuse and addiction.

“The formation of the Enterprise-wide Opioid Taskforce last year was a critical step in identifying ways for Aetna to address our nation’s opioid crisis,” said Harold L. Paz, M.D., M.S., executive vice president and chief medical officer at Aetna. “The Taskforce is responsible for setting aggressive, meaningful and measurable goals.”

Focusing on a three-pronged strategy of prevention, intervention and support, Aetna is working to achieve three goals by 2022:

  • Increase the percentage of members with chronic pain treated by an evidence-based multimodal approach by 50 percent; and
  • Reduce inappropriate opioid prescribing among its members by 50 percent;
  • Increase the percentage of members with opioid use disorder treated with medication-assisted therapy and other evidence-based treatments by 50 percent.

The EWOT is made up of representatives of different business areas at Aetna, such as Health & Clinical Services; Medicaid; Medicare; Dental; Pharmacy; Special Investigations Unit; Behavioral Health; Healthagen Outcomes; Communications; and Accountable Care Solutions.

The taskforce is led by Paz, and supported by Dan Knecht, M.D., head of clinical strategy for Health & Clinical Services; Traci Sellers, manager of Health & Clinical Services business management planning; Mark Friedlander, M.D., MBA, chief medical officer for Aetna Behavioral Health; and Hyong Un, M.D., chief psychiatric officer for Aetna Behavioral Health.

“Within Aetna, we are mobilizing all our resources, but there is no single solution to the opioid epidemic. Substance related disorders, and opioid dependence in particular, is more than an Aetna problem – it is all hands on deck,” Friedlander said. “Our response to help members with substance related disorders involves many areas of expertise.”

“The opioid epidemic is a public health problem that requires multiple approaches, including controlling the supply of opioids, promoting appropriate prescribing, preventing harm from overdose, as well as supporting those individuals with opioid use disorder to initiate and sustain recovery,” Un said. “Under the leadership of Chief Medical Officer Harold Paz, the Enterprise-Wide Opioid Taskforce can bring multiple Aetna experts together to respond to this crisis in a comprehensive manner.”

While the EWOT will continue to work and monitor the company’s progress towards achieving the three goals, the group is also involved in research and education, Knecht said.

“The opioid epidemic is multifaceted; it touches on all different areas,” Knecht said. “There’s an educational component to the work the enterprise-wide opioid task force is doing so we can raise awareness about the opioid crisis and work to reduce stigma involved in getting treatment.”

Aetna’s EWOT is collaborating with mental health organizations to promote the most effective strategies. Jay C. Butler, M.D., the head of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, recently met with the EWOT to discuss how public health officials and other health care companies are confronting the opioid problem.

Aetna also is actively supporting Congressional efforts to address the opioid epidemic.