Hospitals Changing Practices To Curb Opioid Epidemic
We read an article from the American College of Physicians website talking about hospitals changing practices for their day-to-day routines. It was an interesting read for sure and we were left with a few thoughts we wanted to share.
The gist: Due to the ongoing opioid crisis and rise in the diversion of prescription narcotics, many hospitals are changing practices and protocols to reduce the amount of opioids they distribute to patients. A survey from Vizient in October 2018 shows the most common changes made are prescriber education, implementing new technologies to monitor prescribing and alternative therapies for acute pain management. Also, for any opioids that are prescribed, they are being cut significantly in length, hoping shorter timeframes for these prescriptions reduces the risk of them falling into the wrong hands.
Our five key takeaways/thoughts:
- We think these steps, while not ideal, are a logical step for ending the diversion of illegal narcotics. Too many times opioids fall into the hands of pill mills and other black markets to continue allowing “free-range” prescribing.
- Our big question is how will limiting prescriptions be enforced among doctors? As far as DEA regulatory statutes, there is nothing in there about doctors and their involvement with opioids, and there are multiple sides to this making it difficult to monitor doctors. How can this be generalized across the board? Hospitalists have many different specialties, and the number of prescriptions a cancer specialist writes will be vastly different from a hospitalists who specializes in family practice.
- We don’t think taking these narcotics off the line is a reasonable solution. They were created out of need and people rely on them in order to be a functioning member of society. We don’t want doctors and hospitalists to think they need to stop prescribing opioids all together. It’s their job to help their patients, and it’s our jobs to provide tools to make that happen. So when it comes to employing technology to monitor prescriptions, it does all the tracking and allows medical professionals to focus on caring for patients.
- Alternative therapies for pain management can be beneficial, however most patients don’t explore those avenues due to insurance. Alternatives can include physical therapy, yoga, or acupuncture, but aren’t covered under a basic healthcare plan, leading to opioids being the “affordable” option. This is an insurance issue, and until it gets resolved and adapted, the number of opioid prescriptions won’t be decreasing any time soon.
- And Finally, technology can be the difference for getting off the DEA’s radar. When you implement a software solution that tracks orders, compares them to a historical archive, approves or denies them and then fulfills them, you are demonstrating due diligence for scouting out potential orders of interest.
Do you agree with our thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.