Patient Education and the Key to Preventing Disease

Yesterday, I was happy to serve as a panelist at the Healthcare Summit at Kean University hosted by by Assemblyman Jon Bramnick to discuss healthcare services for New Jersey residents and how to make those services more cost effective. Other panelists included the Medical Society of New Jersey, the New Jersey Hospital Association, Developmental Disabilities Health Alliance, LeadingAge New Jersey, New Jersey Healthcare Quality Institute, BAYADA Home Healthcare, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, New Jersey Neurosurgical Society, New Jersey Association of Health Plans, New Jersey Association of Health Underwriters, New Jersey State Nurses Association, New Jersey Business and Industry Association, and New Jersey Dental Association. The discussion mainly centered around affordability of healthcare, access to healthcare, and preventing disease.

In New Jersey, a disease that has gripped our state for far too long is prescription drug and opioid abuse. As a participant in this summit, I had the opportunity to elaborate on the importance of patient education as a key component in any successful disease prevention strategy.

As I’ve stated in a previous post, a bill called S-2366, sponsored by Senators Vitale and Weinberg, has passed the Senate and is on its way to be voted on in the New Jersey Assembly. This is significant because it would require all doctors to have a verbal conversation with their patients (or patient’s parents) about the potential addictive qualities of opioid-based prescription drugs if they are prescribed. Also, it would require doctors to discuss alternative options to manage pain and to acknowledge this conversation happened through a written statement, signed by the patient. This conversation between patient and doctor is vitally important. Too often we hear about scenarios where the person suffering from addiction or their families were completely blindsided by the dangers associated with drugs. If S-2366 passes through the Assembly and is then signed by the Governor, we can then rest assured that our loved ones will be armed with the knowledge to make an informed and healthy decision.

In a way, the conversation between doctor and patient isn’t unlike what the Partnership has always said about the importance of parent and child conversations. By talking to your children about the dangers of substance abuse, you are giving them the knowledge to make healthy decisions in their everyday life. Knowledge is the key in stopping addiction before it starts. With the hopeful passage of S-2366, we can hope to see more patients who are dealing with pain opt for alternative methods, which the American Academy Neurology states can be more effective than traditional opioid-based painkillers.

2015 is poised to be an historic year in the struggle against opioid abuse. 2014 saw the collaboration of law enforcement, the prevention and treatment community, and medical professionals. This year, with the addition of legislative support, could be the year we take strides in ending this epidemic once and for all.

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