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Tracking Opioids Proves Successful at Sanford

Dec 14, 2017 03:36PM ● By MED Editor
Sanford’s own in-house efforts to track opioid use already appear to be having an impact on the problem. By tracking opioid prescriptions through the EMR system and providing education around best practices, the health system has cut the number of pills and prescriptions by nearly 25% in the last two years.

Dan Heinemann, MD, is one of the people working on the opioid issue at Sanford as the VP and Medical Officer for Sanford Health Network and Clinic and described to MED some of the changes he’s seen.

“Our surgical clinicians were prescribing 30 to 60 days of meds postoperatively,” says Heinemann. “But some patients may only need five or ten, especially if the surgery corrected the issue that was causing the pain. With that data and knowing that best practice is to prescribe less, many surgeons are now prescirinb five to seven days and parntering with physicians to take care of additional needs.”

Heinemann says this practice, which has now been implemented system-wide, helps keep uneeded medications out of patients’ medicine cabinets. In addition, a controlled substance stewardship group developed short education modules around opioid use, which every clinician is required to complete.

As clinicians change their practices, Heinemann says Sanford will be ready to back them up by providing resources like drug use “contracts” for patients and enhancing areas like physical therapy, psychiatric services, and behavioral health services to help patients with issues that go beyond physical pain. 

“You can’t ask someone to changet the way they practice without providing them with the tools,” he says. “The bottom line is that we don’t want anyone to suffer...whether that suffering comes from chronic pain or from dependence on opioids, which may result in addictive behaviors or even overdose.”