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Opioid Crisis: The Strain It Places on the Healthcare System

Healthcare administrators are facing big costs due to increased hospital visits that involve opioid misuse.

While COVID-19 has been in the spotlight for the better part of 2020, the opioid epidemic continues to be a major public health crisis in the United States.

Between 1999 and 2018, over 446,000 American deaths involved opioids.1 In 2018, an estimated 10.3 million people misused prescription opioids.2 Experts warn that the effects of the coronavirus pandemic will likely lead to even more alarming statistics, with more than 40 states reporting increases in opioid-related deaths by the start of September 2020.3


A Heavy Toll on the Healthcare System

Hospital administrators, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers are on the front lines of the opioid crisis. Many hospitals are working to address the issue with education programs and improved pain management practices. While there has been some progress in recent years, leaders in healthcare administration continue to grapple with many challenges fueled by the opioid epidemic.

Between 2005 and 2014, the national rate of opioid-related inpatient hospital stays increased 64%, and emergency department visits increased 99%.4 In 2016, the national rate of opioid-related hospitalizations was 297 per 100,000.5

The growth in opioid-related hospital visits not only strains an already overstretched healthcare workforce, it also presents hospital administrators with a significant financial burden. Between 2001 and 2017, healthcare costs related to the opioid crisis reached $215.7 billion, which stemmed mostly from emergency room visits, ambulance costs, and the use of overdose-reversing drug naloxone.6

The rising costs of the opioid epidemic are hitting hospital budgets hard. An analysis of 647 healthcare facilities found that patients with opioid-related overdoses contributed to approximately $1.94 billion in annual hospital costs between October 2017 and October 2018.7

Looking at the U.S. healthcare system as a whole, the study estimates the cost of caring for patients who overdose on this class of drug to be a whopping $11.3 billion each year.7

“This analysis shows that on top of losing family members and friends to this epidemic, it’s costing consumers and taxpayers, as well as hospitals,” said Roshni Ghosh, vice president and chief medical officer at Premier, the company that conducted the analysis. “There is an urgent need to provide health systems and emergency caregivers with frontline solutions that they can use to stem the tide of opioid addiction in our communities.”7

The expense of caring for overdose patients has had a determinantal financial impact on healthcare facilities across the nation. For administrators and providers in areas with high addiction rates, the financial strain is even more severe.

Prepare to Help Solve the Opioid Problem With an MHA Degree

The opioid epidemic has had a profound effect on the U.S. healthcare system, but its impact is felt far beyond the hospitals. Families are losing loved ones, and communities across the U.S. are struggling to combat opioid misuse and abuse. The public health crisis has also taken a heavy toll on the U.S. economy, costing Americans over $1 trillion since 2001.6

If you want to be part of the solution, consider advancing your education by earning a master’s degree in healthcare administration—also referred to as an MHA degree. Taking healthcare administration classes at the college level is a good way to develop your management and business skills, while also learning about the trends, regulations, laws, technologies, and health policies that impact health systems. An MHA degree can provide the industry insights and leadership skills to address opioid-related issues and other tough problems administrators face in today’s changing healthcare climate.

Two Ways to Earn a Master of Healthcare Administration

Does an MHA degree program sound like a good fit for you? One great option for busy working professionals is the Master of Healthcare Administration online degree program at Walden University, a leader in graduating students with a master’s in healthcare administration.8

At Walden, you can choose one of two ways to earn an MHA degree. There is the standard course-based format, in which you complete a series of online classes. Or, you can select the competency-based learning option and progress through the online degree program by completing competencies at your own pace.

By earning an MHA degree in a flexible online learning format, you can further your education and professional credentials in healthcare administration while still fulfilling your current job and life responsibilities.

Jobs in Healthcare Administration

An MHA degree can set you up for many great career opportunities in healthcare management and administration. Depending on previous experience, training, and other factors, potential job titles may include:

  • Ambulatory surgery center director
  • Compliance or business operations director
  • Group practice administrator
  • Academic program or departmental administrator
  • Hospital or health services administrator
  • Assistant administrator
  • Materials management director
  • Director of business functions such as marketing, operations, and planning
  • Health information manager
  • Director of managed care
  • Director of managed care business development
  • Director of patient access
  • Medical and health services manager

A college degree in healthcare administration can also put you in high demand with employers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the healthcare administration field are expected to grow 32% by 2029—much faster than the national average for all occupations.9

With an MHA degree, you can shape positive change in healthcare and in your career.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

8Source: National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) IPEDS database. Collected using Burning Glass Technologies. Retrieved February 2020, using CIP 51.07 (Master’s degree – Health/Health Care Administration/Management). Includes 2017–18 provisional data.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,