Dr. Elizabeth Stringer on Using Opioids in the Correct Population

Opioids can be effective in the right population, but there needs to be greater awareness among providers and health plans on which patients are not appropriate to start on opioids, said Elizabeth Stringer, PhD, chief science and clinical officer of axialHealthcare.

What are the intervention techniques that your clients have used that have been successful?
The opioid crisis in America continues to grow and evolve over time. One of the challenges is the diverse patient population that receive opioids. What we help the health plans do is general outreach and education to providers on who within the patient population is actually appropriate for opioid prescribing. So, a lot of the success that the plans has had early on is less on specific targeted patient populations of a very specific type and more just general education of providers of best practices.
One of the things, I think, the American public might not understand is that within the medical education, MDs receive very little training in pain management. Which is ironic, because pain is just a symptom that something is wrong with the body and it traverses all different specialties within medicine. It’s also the number 1 reason why patients go and see their doctors, is for a pain complaint. And we know that for a long time physicians were taught that when a patient does present with a pain complaint, if the patient is taking the opioids for the pain, that’s safe and low risk. What we have learned over time is that’s not exactly true. Opioids can be effective at treating pain in the acute setting for a specific part of the population with specific diagnoses.
A good example is that low back pain is kind of a number 1 complaint of patients with pain, but opioids are not indicated for patients with low back pain. So, raising the awareness, having the provider population understand who is appropriate to prescribe opioids to and at what levels we’re able to help the health plans have early success in getting opioids to the correct patients and avoiding opioid initiation where it’s not appropriate.
Via American Journal of Managed Care.

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