The good news is that prescribers in emergency rooms seem to be getting the message that opioid medications have been overprescribed for too long, contributing to widespread addiction and increasing deaths by overdose and suicide. According to data just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid prescriptions originating in the ED dropped by nearly one third between 2006–2007 and 2016–2017—reversing a 5-year upward trend. Decreases were highest among visits by younger adults (ages 18 to 44) and those living in medium or small metropolitan counties. Of note for urgent care providers, top diagnoses associated with opioid prescriptions at discharge from the ED include dental pain; pain associated with kidney, bladder or urinary tract stones; fractures; back pain; and pain in the extremities. It’s also important to bear in mind that the new data don’t necessarily reflect diminished demand for opioid medications—especially among patients who try to obtain drugs for recreational use or to feed an addiction. It stands to reason that if those patients are unable to secure their opioid of choice from the ED, many may turn to an urgent care center. Be prepared. You can get further insights from a specifically urgent care perspective by reading The Potential Role of Urgent Care in Addressing the Opiate Epidemic in the JUCM archive.
EDs Are Doling Out Fewer Pain Meds. What Will That Mean for Urgent Care Operators?