The opioid epidemic: Mobilizing an academic health center to improve outcomes

Document Type


Publication Date



Abstract: Since 2000, opioid use disorder (OUD) has become an epidemic in the United States with more than 600,000 total deaths and a $51 billion annual cost. Patients with OUD require services from community-based organizations, local and state health departments, and health systems, all of which necessitate communication and collaboration among these groups to develop an effective strategy for diagnosis, treatment, and coordination of care. Academic health centers (AHCs) are poised to make significant contributions to the care of patients with OUD given in-house expertise across multiple medical specialties and the mission to care for patients in need. Despite the potential for AHCs to provide necessary services and address this public health crisis, progress has been slow. Many AHCs lack a clear roadmap for moving this agenda forward in their local regions. In response to rising deaths due to OUD, the authors' AHC undertook a significant redesign effort to facilitate the necessary processes and interdepartmental collaboration to provide patient-centered, comprehensive care for patients with OUD. In this article, using an organizational development framework (McKinsey 7S model), the authors describe their transformation process, and articulate strategies and potential barriers to implementing this framework. The goal of the article is to highlight the structural, procedural, and cultural changes that have occurred in one AHC so we can assist other AHCs in addressing the opioid epidemic.