Newswise — CLEVELAND – University Hospitals has been awarded a $200,000 award from the Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge for an innovative technology solution that will help health professionals in the fight against the opioid epidemic plaguing our communities. 

The award from the Ohio Opioid Technology Challenge facilitates expansion of the new technology-enabled UH Care Continues discharge-planning process aimed at identifying patients at-risk for opioid misuse and dependence. The program provides an innovative opportunity for opioid surveillance and tracking in real time, helping to identify patients’ receiving an opioid prescription prior to hospital discharge and assessing their risk factors for addiction.  It also enables coordination of alternative, non-pharmacological methods for pain management. 

UH was the only hospital in Ohio to receive a grant from this program in this phase of awards.  

UH Care Continues leverages an innovative logistics technology platform supporting patients as they transition out of the hospital. For patients who have been prescribed an opioid, the system will use algorithms to prompt the care coordination team, which may include physicians, nurses, social workers, therapists and pharmacists to evaluate patient pain needs and risk-factors for addiction or opioid-use disorder, and will confirm appropriateness with the prescriber.  The platform will also facilitate care navigation to alternative, non-pharmacologic pain treatment modalities, such as acupuncture or massage therapy. Ultimately, the UH Care Continues platform will enable automated referrals to related services, community resources and for follow-up care.

The technology platform is part of a re-imagined and re-designed team approach to care coordination, discharge planning and post-acute care at UH, said Eric Beck, DO, MPH, an emergency medicine physician and President of UH Ventures, the business innovation arm of the UH system, which designed the tech-enabled care transition system.

UH has implemented the new system at two sites, UH Geauga and UH Cleveland medical centers, and plans to roll it out across the system’s remaining community hospitals.  This award will enable UH to further enhance the technology platform and work towards product commercialization. 

“Given the current opioid crisis plaguing our state and the nation, UH is taking an aggressive approach to patient safety around pain management and the appropriate use of opioids as well as other controlled substances,” said Dr. Beck. “This new platform provides us with a unique opportunity to limit, by ensuring necessity, many of the opioid prescriptions contributing to risk for opioid misuse and dependence.”

Every 10.7 minutes, someone in this country dies from an opioid overdose. Such overdoses accounted for 49,068 deaths in 2017, according to preliminary statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Aug. 16. Specifically, Ohio has been described as “ground zero” for the opioid epidemic. According to the Ohio Department of Health, drug-related deaths eclipsed auto accidents as the state’s top cause of injury deaths in 2007 and that trend has continued ever since. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), Ohio’s 2016 rate of 32.9 opioid-related overdose deaths per 100,000 people ranked third behind only West Virginia and New Hampshire. Per NIDA, that’s more than triple the state’s 2010 rate of 10 overdose deaths per 100,000.

Last year, UH launched the Pain Management Institute, a system-wide initiative partnering providers across disciplines including primary care, surgery, emergency medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, pain management and the UH Connor Integrative Health Network to optimize patient care.  Through these efforts, the system is working to provide clinicians with non-pharmacologic alternatives to opioids for pain; to improve and streamline communication between providers to better identify and manage patients at higher risk for opioid use disorder; and improve prescribing, follow up and management of patients when opioids are prescribed. 

“Routine opioid prescriptions are no longer an acceptable approach at the time of hospital discharge.  Accordingly, UH is thoughtfully using technology to be more intentional, supporting physicians and other clinicians in considering each patient’s needs, risks, preferences and alternatives as part of our new discharge planning process,” said Dr. Beck.


About University Hospitals / Cleveland, Ohio

Founded in 1866, University Hospitals serves the needs of patients through an integrated network of 18 hospitals, more than 50 outpatient health centers and 200 physician offices in 16 counties throughout northern Ohio. The system’s flagship academic medical center, University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, located on a 35-acre campus in Cleveland’s University Circle, is affiliated with Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. The main campus also includes University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, ranked among the top children’s hospitals in the nation; University Hospitals MacDonald Women's Hospital, Ohio's only hospital for women; and University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, part of the NCI-designated Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. UH is home to some of the most prestigious clinical and research programs in the nation, including cancer, pediatrics, women's health, orthopedics, radiology, neuroscience, cardiology and cardiovascular surgery, digestive health, transplantation and urology. UH Cleveland Medical Center is perennially among the highest performers in national ranking surveys, including “America’s Best Hospitals” from U.S. News & World Report. UH is also home to Harrington Discovery Institute at University Hospitals – part of The Harrington Project for Discovery & Development. UH is one of the largest employers in Northeast Ohio with 26,000 employees.

UH’s vision is “Advancing the science of health and the art of compassion,” and its mission: “To Heal. To Teach. To Discover.”  Follow UH on Facebook @UniversityHospitals and Twitter @UHhospitals. For more information, go to