40% of primary care clinics will decline a new patient who takes opioids on ongoing basis

Forty percent of primary clinics said they would not accept a new patient who takes daily doses of Percocet, a prescription opioid, for chronic pain from a past injury, according to a study published July 12 in JAMA Open Network.

A team from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor used the "secret shopper" method for the study, posing as healthcare consumers to gain insight into the patient experience. They first called 667 randomly chosen Michigan clinics to ask whether they were accepting new primary care patients, among other questions. 

Next, callers posed as an adult child calling on a parent's behalf, so that the conversations did not include detailed patient information. Half said their "parent" had Medicaid and the other half claimed to have private insurance. They called a variety of rural and urban clinics of different types.

The study's results showed no difference in care access due to insurance status or whether a clinic was urban or rural. Larger clinics and community health centers were three times more likely to accept new patients, however.

The findings suggest patients taking opioids for chronic pain face problems in accessing primary care, even though having a regular provider could allow them to access other pain-relieving treatments. Primary care providers could also help these patients to safely taper their opioid use and equip them with a "rescue" drug in case of an overdose. 

More articles on opioids:
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New Jersey is 1st state to let paramedics administer buprenorphine
Study backs lower opioid doses after surgery

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