Opioids – The American Health Care Crisis: Interview with Dr. Daniel Knecht

In his current role with Aetna, Dr. Daniel Knecht leads the team who creates and executes programs which impact the unmet health needs for their members. They work with internal stakeholders and external partners to implement strategies. Currently, the opioid epidemic is at the forefront of the issues Dr. Knecht and his team are trying to help their members tackle.

The opioid epidemic is the biggest health crisis to impact American society. Although it started in the late 1990’s when there was inappropriate marketing of opioids to patients dealing with chronic pain, our society and species has been struggling with opioids for much longer. Hypocrisy, the father of medicine, warned against the duel nature of opioids. In the US, veterans struggled with opioids after the civil war. Research and data have proven opioids are not effective for treating chronic pain. There are many other alternative treatments for chronic pain other than opioids, and Dr. Knecht and his colleagues are helping to bring awareness to these additional pain management options. Dr. Knecht explains how pain started to be looked at as a vital sign, but it is important to understand it is not realistic for human beings to be pain free. The opioid epidemic has been an issue for more than a century, but the unprecedented crisis is currently worse than it has ever been.

All walks of life are effected by opioid use disorder. Dr. Knecht believes as a society we need to start treating this problem as a medical condition, and less as a mental health issue or moral shortcoming. Those who know someone struggling with opioid use disorder may not fully understand the condition or treatment. Education for families, friends and even medical professionals will be key in helping to turn this epidemic around. Over the past two years, Dr. Knecht and his team were able to travel to the areas hardest hit by the epidemic. He will continue to work with local medical professionals to train and educate them on opioid use disorder. Aetna has also implemented the Guardian Angel Program. The program utilized trained medical professionals to call Aetna members who had overdosed to discuss what had happened and how they could help. They were able to connect with, educate, and even book appointments for many members who had suffered from an overdose and were able to aid them in their recovery. Dr. Knecht is excited and hopeful these programs and others will help to increase awareness of opioids and the treatments available.

Listen for more on this epidemic including Aetna’s comprehensive approach to addressing the opioid crisis, how Dr. Knecht believes leaders in organizations can aide colleagues who may be struggling with opioid use disorder, informative understanding of opioid use disorder treatments, and more on the different treatments available to help with chronic pain.

 

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