Hospitals Innovate on Pain Management and Opioid Abuse

Opioid-related deaths have tripled since 1999. Now, innovative hospitals are combatting opioid abuse by rethinking how they help patients manage surgical pain. In its recent webinar, the Collaborative for Effective Prescription Opioid Policies spotlighted several hospitals’ work toward better understanding – and minimizing – opioid abuse.

Identifying Knowledge Gaps on Opioids

One key to reducing opioid abuse may be better education for health care providers and staff. Matt Grissinger of the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania reported on an assessment tool that allows prescribers, pharmacists and nurses to gauge their knowledge of opioids. The 11-question survey revealed a lack of understanding on how to determine which patients are opioid tolerant.

The results also identified concerning assessment practices for patients receiving opioids. Only about 70 percent of survey respondents reported assessing patients for respiratory factors – an important precaution because respiratory depression can be a serious, even deadly, side effect of opioid treatment.

Providing Tools for Health Care Providers

Michelle Norcross of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association Keystone Center offered more insight: the need for tools that guide health care providers’ pain treatment decisions. Developed by Alliance for Patient Access member and anesthesiologist Roy Soto, MD, the Michigan Opioid Safety Score allows practitioners to quantify an individual patient’s pain and safety factors. They can then use the final score to determine whether opioid use is appropriate for that patient.

Safety score tools were shipped to 38 hospitals across the state. Resulting data showed that use of the tool correlated with decreases in hospitals’ need for naloxone, the opioid overdose antidote.

Offering Multimodal Pain Care

In addition to education and improved tools, hospitals would do well to embrace multimodal approaches to managing acute pain. So explained Anita Gupta, DO, of Drexel University College of Medicine. About 23 million Americans have surgery each year, Dr. Gupta noted, and 40-50 percent report inadequate relief from pain.

Multimodal analgesia, or “opioid-sparing analgesia,” brings together both pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments to offer a more personalized approach. Components may include opioid treatments, non-opioid medications such as acetaminophen or NSAIDS, and non-pharmacological interventions such as physical and occupation therapy.

[READ: Multimodal Analgesia: Acute Pain Relief for the Whole Patient]

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