Opioid misuse and abuse nationally has exploded into a health crisis affecting many people. According to the CDC, in 2015, more than 33,000 people died from unintentional overdoses involving opioids—and nearly half of those deaths involved prescription opioids.
Intermountain Healthcare has pledged to reduce by 40 percent the average amount of opioids prescribed per acute pain prescription by the end of 2018. Intermountain was the first U.S. health system to formally announce such a significant and specific amount of reduction as a target.
Patients with acute or chronic pain conditions will still be able to get the medications they need. Providers nationwide tend to write prescriptions for more opioids than needed. Some studies have shown that two-thirds of all opioids misused and abused come from family members or friends.
To achieve the 40 percent reduction, Intermountain has already provided training to about 2,500 caregivers within its system, with plans to expand training to additional prescribers in Utah and Idaho communities. Among other things these are some steps Intermountain is taking to address the problem.
- Electronic Health Records Prompts: Intermountain is adding prompts and default order sets into its electronic health records to help reduce the number of tablets prescribed.
- Controlled Substances Database: Prescribers must also check the controlled substances database before prescription.
- Community Partners: Intermountain works with the Utah Department of Health, the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, and others to provide extensive provider and patient education, as well as supporting community initiatives to reduce opioid usage and safely dispose of medications.
- Medication Drop Boxes: Intermountain community pharmacies installed secure medication disposal drop boxes for unused medications in 2015. So far, more than 15,000 pounds of unused medications have been disposed of by the community in the drop boxes.
Intermountain also plans to expand other services, such as pain management clinics and treatment resources for opioid use disorders, to better help patients with chronic pain or addiction. More educational services for patients will be offered, and complementary therapies will be available.
For more information visit, intermountainhealthcare.org.
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