The Opioid Crisis is a Women’s Health Issue: Here’s What We Can Do About It

The face of the Opioid Crisis isn’t an unemployed 28 year-old man. It’s an employed (and insured) 52 year-old woman.

Employers, because of their leading role in the purchasing of healthcare in our country, can be the heroes that finally empower patients and align incentives to bring an end to this unfortunate era. How?

Let’s start with some underlying truths:

  • Surgery is the number-one gateway to opioid addiction.
  • Women are 40% more likely than men to become newly persistent users of opioids following surgery.
  • A combination of underlying factors—including physiological, clinical and social—contribute to this increased risk of addiction.
  • Chief among these contributing factors is women are prescribed more opioids than men (15% more, in fact).
  • This is due, at least in part, to women being exposed to major surgical procedures men simply are not—hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) and cesarean section (childbirth).
  • And studies show patients take a percentage of the opioids they’re prescribed, small or large. The likelihood of persistent use rises with the number of pills and the length of time opioids are taken.

Women are prescribed more opioids. Women take more opioids. Women are more likely to become persistent opioid users following surgery.

All of this adds up to millions of women unfortunately joining the ranks of persistent opioid users over the last decade. The impact on our communities, companies and families is profound.

Solutions exist, and not just solutions to address addiction after the fact. What about addressing the underlying pain in the first place? And doing so at the point where so much opioid use starts—surgery.

21st Century surgery guided by minimally-invasive techniques and Advanced Surgical Pathways promise to change that reality. The results:

  • 30% shorter hospital stays
  • 50% fewer complications
  • And up to 90% reduced need for opioids post-operatively!

But how do you find this better experience?

That brings us back to the role for employers. A number of women-oriented benefit programs have been introduced by leading employers in recent years—fertility treatment benefits, guidance through maternity and breastfeeding support. We wholeheartedly support these efforts.

Yet, we believe there is an opportunity for employers to support women at different points in their healthcare, and at different points in their lives. For most, surgery and the recovery that follows is the most costly, consequential and scary experience within healthcare.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

With nurse navigation, advocacy and leading-edge technology, Goldfinch Health can help companies empower women employees (and men, too!) to find the best experience possible in surgery and recovery.