From the Journals

Opioid use cut nearly 50% for urologic oncology surgery patients



– Opioid use in urologic oncology patients dropped by 46% after one high-volume surgical center introduced changes to order sets and adopted new patient communication strategies, a researcher has reported.

The changes, which promoted opioid-sparing pain regimens, led to a substantial drop in postoperative opioid use with no compromise in pain control, according to Kerri Stevenson, a nurse practitioner with Stanford Health Care.

“Patients can be successfully managed with minimal opioid medication,” Ms. Stevenson said at a symposium on quality care sponsored by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

However, “it takes a multidisciplinary team for effective change to occur – this cannot be done in silos,” she told attendees at the meeting.

Seeking to reduce their reliance on opioids to manage postoperative pain, Ms. Stevenson and her colleagues set out to reduce opioid use by 50%, from a baseline morphine equivalent daily dose (MEDD) of 95.1 in June to September 2017 to a target of 47.5 by March 2018.

The actual MEDD at the end of the quality improvement project was 51.5, a 46% reduction that was just shy of that goal, she reported.

Factors fueling opioid use included patient expectations that they would be used and the belief that adjunct medications were not as effective as opioids, Dr. Stevenson found in a team survey.

“We decided to target those,” she said. “Our key drivers were really focused on appropriate prescriptions, increasing patient and provider awareness, standardizing our pathways, and setting expectations.”

To tackle the problem, they revised EMR order sets to default to selection of adjunct medications, educated providers, and introduced new patient communication strategies.

Instead of asking “Would you like me to bring you some oxycodone?” providers would instead start by asking about the patient’s current pain control medications and whether they were working well. When prescribed, opioids should be started at lower doses and escalated only if needed.

“Once we started our interventions, we noticed an immediate effect,” Ms. Stevenson.

The decreases were consistent across a range of surgery types. For example, the MEDD dropped to 55.1 with robotic prostatectomy, a procedure with a 1-day admission and very small incisions, and to 50.6 for open radical cystectomy, which involves a large incision and a stay of approximately 4 days, she said.

To address concerns that they might just be undertreating patients, investigators looked retrospectively at pain scores. They saw no differences pre- and post intervention in pain or anxiety scores within the first 24-48 hours post procedure, Ms. Stevenson reported.

Ms. Stevenson had no disclosures related to the presentation. Coauthor Jay Bakul Shah, MD of Stanford Health Care reported a consulting or advisory role with Pacira Pharmaceuticals.

SOURCE: Stevenson K et al. Quality Care Symposium, Abstract 269.

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