Opioids now 'painkiller of last resort' for UK Healthcare

Brian Zimmerman -

In the emergency department at University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital in Lexington, opioid medications are considered a painkiller of last resort. Since implementing the policy two years ago, the hospital has halved the amount of opioids administered to trauma patients with no history of regular opioid use, according to STAT.

Due to the success of the policy, Phillip K. Chang, MD, CMO of UK Healthcare, plans to extend the strategic initiative to dozens of hospitals across the state of Kentucky. The state experienced one of the highest rates of opioid-related deaths in the country in 2015, according to the CDC.

Dr. Chang has also stepped up efforts at UK Healthcare to create policies to address prescriptions for trauma patients with a history of opioid use. Some evidence suggests long-term opioid use can enhance the feeling of pain. The health system is now training emergency medicine physicians to use fewer opioids on these patients when possible and to guide them toward substance abuse treatment upon discharge.

Dr. Chang plans to implement these new practices across other units of the hospital and then, if the policies prove effective, implement them at other hospitals across the state, along with the policyregarding opioids and patients with no history of chronic use.

"Every one of us needs to feel like we're responsible," said Dr. Chang, according to STAT. "The feeling of, 'I'm not an addiction specialist; that's not my problem' has to go away."

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