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November 11, 2020

From Pandemic to Epidemic: A Front Line Perspective on COVID-19 and the Opioid Crisis

Joy Somogyi
Senior Director of Product Marketing and Development, Omnicell

With two million people suffering from opioid addiction and 115 people dying from an opioid overdose every day in the U.S., the opioid crisis is one of the major challenges healthcare is facing, specifically for pharmacies currently managing medication diversion. And this crisis is only exacerbated by COVID-19.

We were pleased to welcome our partners Desi Kotis, Chief Pharmacy Executive and Associate Dean from UCSF School of Pharmacy; Christopher Fortier, Chief Pharmacy Officer; and Theresa Capodilupo, Director of Nursing from Massachusetts General Hospital, to speak about their experiences during the Omnicell Illuminate 2020 session titled, “From Pandemic to Epidemic: A Front Line Perspective on COVID-19 and the Opioid Crisis.”

This CE-accredited session for pharmacy and nursing discussed how COVID-19 is compounding complications of Substance Use Disorder, and shared best practices for diversion monitoring in order to refocus resources and revise schedules amidst COVID-19. It also outlined the importance of an overall controlled substance program and new prevention and surveillance tools that leverage machine learning to streamline the process for hospitals with established diversion programs.   

Chris Fortier demonstrated how Massachusetts General Hospital is using Omnicell’s suite of medication inventory management and optimization solutions to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and has transformed operations through the following:

  • Expanded ICU capacity from 130–250 staffed bed in three weeks
  • Deployed 413 general care nurses to serve as ICU extenders
  • Redeployed 188 outpatient RNs to backfill the general care area
  • Hired 330 travelers during the 12-week period 
  • Changed 27-bed surgical trauma unit to 100% COVID-19 patient area

The challenges to manage this substance abuse crisis during a pandemic are numerous: missing drug alerts, gaps and delays in documentation and administration, and limited visibility into full waste transactions. Fortunately, new diversion tools that facilitate greater collaboration among stakeholders – along with next-generation surveillance systems that incorporate machine learning – are making it easier for nursing and pharmacy teams to quickly identify and mitigate these issues. Tools that relieve the pressures of diversion will give these teams more time to focus on patient care during these challenging times.

Visit for updates on accessing a replay of this session and the full slate of Omnicell Illuminate breakout sessions, interactive demos, and other insightful learning opportunities.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of the position of any entity other than the author(s). These views are always subject to change, revision, and rethinking at any time and may not be held in perpetuity.

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