Seeing opioid prescriptions increase by some 300% over a 25-year period in the United States—and their home state of Maryland land in the top five states for opioid-related deaths in 2017—decision makers at Anne Arundel Health System determined to find a way to reduce their rate of opioid prescribing without hindering efforts to reduce patients’ suffering. As it turns out, they didn’t have to look too hard. First, they recognized that physicians were writing for more medication than patients needed or wanted. A little research also showed that they were out of step with guidelines promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, they did a trial to see if strict adherence to the CDC approach would help, and it did. Where guidelines as written didn’t fit the way their staff practiced, they gathered their own evidence and devised addendums of their own. It’s working, too; the facility’s opioid prescribing rate has dropped 65% since 2017 even though there’s been a 10% bump in the number of overall patient visits, emergency room visits, surgeries, and outpatient care in that time period. Where one in every five patients used to leave the ED with an opioid prescription, currently the rate is roughly half that.
Merely Adopting Existing Standards on Opioids Could Save Lives