Seattle Health System Finds Early Success with Program to Prevent Opioid Misuse

A Seattle-based health care system that implemented a program last year to prevent opioid misuse and overdose in patients with chronic noncancer pain is beginning to see positive results. Claire E. Trescott, MD, Primary Care Director of Group Health, says the initiative aims to standardize opioid prescribing and make it safer. All patients on chronic opioid therapy for noncancer pain now have a standard chart template that includes treatment goals, medication regimens, frequency of monitoring visits and requirements for drug screening, if applicable. In addition, the program instated the use of electronic health records, a new pharmacy refill plan, and mandatory drug screening. When the initiative launched, almost 6,000 patients on long-term opioid therapy met with their clinicians to develop care plans. As of January, almost all of the system’s 7,000 patients in this category have care plans. “Now, if someone needs a refill, we aren’t treating them like a criminal anymore,” Trescott said. “And if someone is abusing substances, we catch it quickly and address it. The system has been fair, respectful, honest and transparent.”

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