News at Smith

CHIDS Launches Study to Curb Prescription Opioid Risk

Jan 20, 2017


Opioid-related overdose deaths quadrupled between 2000 and 2015, totaling more than half a million. This includes 20,000-plus fatalities in 2015 related to prescription opioids.

To reign in this epidemic, researchers at the Center for Health Information and Decision Systems (CHIDS) at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business have launched a study into the feasibility and impact of physicians applying a personalized approach to pain management by predicting individual-patient risk of becoming addicted. This method counters a standard practice based on “static clinical guidelines that only allow limited personalization, such as adjustment for tolerance,” says principal researcher Ritu Agarwal, senior associate dean and Professor and Dean's Chair of Information Systems at the Smith School.

The year-long study is supported by a grant from the National Institute for Health Care Management and will draw from a large database of electronic medical records. The findings will “have the potential to improve prescribing practices and reduce the prevalence of addiction,” according to the NIHCM.

Opioids are a class of drugs including heroin as well as powerful pain relievers available by prescription, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and others. The Secretary of Health and Human Services in 2015 announced the Secretary’s Opioid Initiative to reduce addiction and mortality related to opioid drug abuse by reforming opioid prescribing practices, expanding access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone and expanding access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder.

In addition to addiction and death, chronic opioid therapy also is associated with constipation, sleep-disordered breathing, fractures, behavioral dysfunction and increased sensitivity to pain.

“Not only are policymakers and citizens deeply concerned about the prevalence of opioid abuse, health insurance claims associated with opioid dependence have grown in excess of 3,000 percent from 2007 to 2014 and treatment costs continue to surge,” says Agarwal.

In addition to Agarwal, the research team for the study includes Smith School professors Margrét Bjarnadóttir and Kislaya Prasad; CHIDS deputy director Kenyon Crowley and a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland iSchool; D. Alan Nelson of Innolytics and a CHIDS Research Fellow; and Vickee Wolcott, a Baylor University professor and Smith School PhD graduate.


The Center for Health Information and Decision Systems (CHIDS) is an academic research center based in the Decision, Operations & Information Technologies (DO&IT) department in the Robert H. Smith School of Business, which collaborates closely with industry, government, and other key health system stakeholders. The research at CHIDS seeks to understand how digital technologies can be more effectively deployed to address outcomes such as quality, efficiency in healthcare delivery, patient safety, and a reduction in health disparities. CHIDS offers the benefit of a world-class research staff and renowned scholars in healthcare analytics and modeling, and health information technology design, adoption, and evaluation. CHIDS is a pioneer in the study of digitally enabled health system transformation, widely known for its thought leadership and research collaborations.

For more information on engaging with the Center for Health Information & Decision Systems, please contact

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business 

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.