Healthcare News & Insights

One state’s planning to reduce opioid use after surgery

Hospitals across the country must do what they can to stop the epidemic of opioid abuse in patients – especially since many people start abusing them after surgery. Some hospitals are combining their efforts with more population-focused programs so they can turn the tide of abuse and addiction. 

gettyimages-155597323A recent news release describes a program with similar goals in Michigan.

OPEN to change

Like many other states, Michigan has seen an increase in the unauthorized use of opioids with the general public. Currently, opioid abuse costs the state almost $2 billion every year.

The rise in opioid use is particularly prevalent in post-surgical patients. In fact, according to the news release, surgeons prescribed about 40% of opioid painkillers to patients in Michigan.

Because these prescriptions can start patients down the path to drug abuse, Michigan’s doing what it can to prevent this phenomenon through the Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network (Michigan-OPEN). The program’s being jointly funded by the University of Michigan and the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Many people who are prescribed drugs after surgery end up with an addiction. According to research from the University of Michigan, one in 10 people who weren’t taking opioids before their surgeries became addicted to them afterward. And addiction has a detrimental effect on patients’ general health and post-surgical recovery. Plus, patients often become addicted to other illicit drugs after using opioids, such as heroin.

Outcomes are worse for patients who were already taking opioids before their surgeries. Additional research from the University of Michigan showed that caring for these patients after surgery is not only more expensive, but the patients are more likely to suffer from complications and hospital readmissions after surgery than other patients of the same age, health level and insurance status.

Michigan-OPEN has two goals: to cut the amount of opioids prescribed to patients after surgery in half, and to reduce the number of patients who are still using opioids many months after surgery. To accomplish this, the program will bring together doctors, nurses and hospitals across the state.

The program will place a specific focus on Medicaid patients, who often have worse outcomes when taking opioids after surgery than other patients. Research cited in the news release shows that, while Medicaid patients only account for 12% of surgical patients in Michigan, 30% of Medicaid patients who receive opioids after surgery develop addictions.

Michigan-OPEN will work with both patients who never took opioids before their surgery and those who were already taking prescription opioids before their procedures. It’ll also work with surgeons and primary care physicians to teach them alternate approaches to managing patients’ pain and give them strategies to help patients avoid addiction.

Building relationships

As collaboration becomes more important for hitting quality benchmarks established by the feds and various payors, it’s likely that many hospitals will be participating in programs similar to Michigan-OPEN. With that in mind, it’s good to start forming partnerships now that’ll help your hospital meet these objectives in the future.

To help win the battle against substance abuse, hospitals can work with drug rehab centers and counselors so they can guide patients who are struggling with addiction in the right direction. Hospitals can also explore different tactics to relieving patients’ pain that don’t require the use of opioids.

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