These 10 ERs Sharply Reduced Opioid Use And Still Eased Pain

By on March 8, 2018

From NPR:  One of the most common reasons patients head to an emergency room is pain. In response, doctors may try something simple at first, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. And, at least up until recently, if that isn’t effective, the second line of attack has been the big guns.

“Percocet or Vicodin,” says Dr. Peter Bakes, an emergency medicine specialist at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colo. “Medications that certainly have contributed to the rising opioid epidemic.”

Now though, physicians are looking for alternatives to help reduce opioid use and curtail potential abuse. Ten Colorado hospitals, including Swedish, participated in a six-month pilot project called the Colorado Opioid Safety Collaborative, aimed at cutting their use of the prescription painkillers. Launched by the Colorado Hospital Association, the project is believed to be the first in the nation to include this many hospitals in such an effort.

The collaborating ERs hoped to reduce their opioid use by 15 percent. Instead, Dr. Don Stader, an emergency physician at Swedish who helped develop and lead the study, says the institutions did much better — cutting their use of the drugs by 36 percent, on average.

“It’s really a revolution in how we approach patients and approach pain,” Stader says, “and I think it’s a revolution in pain management that’s going to help us end the opioid epidemic.”

The overall decrease amounted to 35,000 fewer opioid doses than were prescribed during the same period in 2016.

Their strategy calls for coordination across providers, pharmacies, clinical staff and administrators. And it introduces alternative procedures — using nonopioid patches for pain, for example. Another innovation, Stader says, is using ultrasound to help guide targeted injections of nonopioid pain medicines.

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