Intermountain Healthcare

How Intermountain Healthcare is working to enhance opioid safety & pain management for patients

Intermountain Healthcare

(Good Things Utah) – How did Utah handle the COVID pandemic in terms of drug overdose deaths? Overall, Utah is not experiencing as significant of an increase in all overdose deaths as reported in other states.

The CDC reports that the United States saw a 31% increase in all drug overdose deaths from January 2020 to January 2021. Utah saw an 11.2% increase in overdose deaths during that time.  However, the number of fentanyl-involved overdose deaths has increased considerably over the last two years in Utah and across the nation.

What is Intermountain Doing? 

Intermountain Healthcare is working to ensure patients and communities can live the healthiest lives possible. Part of attaining this goal is to ensure that as a health system, Intermountain is prescribing opioid medications responsibly to ensure that patients are safe while their pain needs are being met.

To address this and ensure that Intermountain is doing its utmost to help improve patient safety, Intermountain has changed the quantities of opioid tablets prescribed for acute needs such as for surgery. 

Intermountain is working to ensure that the strength of medications provided to patients is most appropriate to meet their needs.  These efforts help to reduce the risk of patients developing opioid use disorder, overdose, and even death, said Compagni.

“Intermountain Healthcare underwent a process in 2017 to work with our prescribing physicians and mid-level providers to work as a team to reduce the number of opioid pills prescribed. Through this process, we have “right-sized” prescribing to better fit the need of the patient aligned with the procedure/pain need,” Compagni added.

Since this effort was initiated, Intermountain has prescribed over 11 million fewer opioid tablets, a 40% reduction in acute and 31% in chronic prescribing.

Intermountain is actively working to address not only the number of pills prescribed by providers but also the potency of those medications. 

At the beginning of 2019, 11% of all opioid prescriptions from Intermountain providers were of high dose opioids, or high morphine milligram equivalent (MME). Now, Intermountain’s percent of prescriptions with a high (>90) MME is about 7%.

“What the community needs to know is that not all opioids are created equally,” said Compagni. “It’s like comparing apples to oranges based on which opioid is prescribed, the strength of the opioid, and the frequency of the dose.”

“All opioids have risks, but the risks increase as the potency increases. Several studies show that long-term opioids don’t improve pain relief and can contribute to significant risk, overdose, and side effects for patients,” she added.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about alternatives to opioids. If an opioid is needed, ask about side effects, the risk of overdose, and about naloxone. 

Learn more at Intermountain Healthcare.

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