How this fast-growing Nashville company is fighting a national epidemic

By Joel Stinnett
A Nashville health-tech company has developed a new way to combat the nation’s opioid crisis, and it says its results are fueling a surge in new clients and staff in the past year.

Brad Rouse
Brad Rouse is Chief Financial Officer for axialHealthcare.

Axial Healthcare (stylized axialHealthcare) uses data collected through years of research and development to assist health care providers in creating better results for patients dealing with pain. The company’s platforms give clinicians treatment recommendations, prescription decision support from Axial pharmacists and helps them identify opioid risk factors for patients.
The company was founded in 2012 but didn’t hit the market until late 2015. Since then, Axial’s reach has grown from 400,000 covered members of health insurance plans in 2016 to 4 million members in four states this year. The company said it expects that number to at least double in 2018.
Axial Chief Financial Officer Brad Rouse said the company’s growth has been spurred by health insurers, the company’s primary customers, who are looking for ways to save money and slow the opioid crisis.

“Pain management and the opioid problem are issues that all health care payers are dealing with right now,” Rouse said. “We expect to continue to see rapid growth as we continue to partner with payers to help them deal with those issues.”

Rouse said that growth will mean more technology and clinical jobs at Axial. The company expanded from 25 employees in 2016 to 75 today, and Rouse said it expects to hire an additional 50 in 2018.
Axial offers three platforms to assist in pain care: one that helps providers make decisions regarding pain care, another that directs patients to top-performing pain care providers and an app that actively engages high-risk patients in their care.
Dr. Elizabeth Ann Stringer, Axial’s chief science officer, said the company used a database built from millions of American patients’ pain claims and results to create a comprehensive view of pain care. She said what they found was that not only is opioid abuse hurting patients and driving up costs, but so are the side effects of that abuse.
“No one was looking at the whole problem,” Stringer said.
After one year on the market, Axial executives said they have data to suggest they are a part of the solution. One client that used Axial’s products in 300,000 patient cases saw a 17 percent drop in opioid prescriptions, a 26 percent decrease in patients receiving pain prescriptions from multiple doctors and 12 percent fewer opioid overdose deaths.
Dr. Sam Asgarian, Axial’s chief development and strategy officer, said one of the keys in developing the company’s technology was ensuring that physicians would actually use it.
“We have been in their shoes,” Asgarian said. “What we did was find ways to put ourselves into existing workflows.”
As more insurance companies see the value of putting Axial’s products into the hands of providers, Rouse said the company hopes to expand to other states that need help battling the epidemic.
“It’s an ever growing problem, and I feel like we are starting to get our arm around it,” Rouse said. “But there’s a long way to go.”
Via the Nashville Business Journal:

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