Tennessee health system cuts daily inpatient opioid use by 40%: 3 things to know

Johnson City, Tenn.-based Mountain States Health Alliance and Kingsport, Tenn.-based Wellmont Health System made significant reductions in opioid use, according to a report from WJHL.

Here are three things to know.

1. MSHA cut daily inpatient opioid use by 40 percent and emergency department opioid prescriptions by 18 percent from 2016 to 2017. The health system's current ED prescribing rate is 26 percent below the national average, according to David May, MD, an anesthesiologist and MSHA board member.

"When patients leave, like when they leave an ED or a hospital, we don't give them unlimited prescriptions like we used to," Dr. May told WJHL. "The pain scores I don't think are any worse. Now, I don't have that data to share with you, but from what I understand anecdotally, people are just as satisfied, maybe more satisfied."

2. Wellmont reduced overall inpatient opioid use by 4 percent and ED opioid prescriptions by 14 percent in a one-year time period. The health system's pain management department and urgent care centers saw a 26 percent and 31 percent reduction in opioid use, respectively. While Wellmont's primary care patient volume increased 23 percent over the year, the number of opioid prescriptions administered in primary care dropped nearly 19 percent.

"We know that opioids certainly can be used, they are beneficial for certain patients, but that shouldn't be the first thing or the only thing I go to," Stephen Combs, MD, a pediatrician and the chief executive medical officer of Wellmont Medical Associates, told WJHL. "It's interesting, you would think you would have patient complaints or patient issues. Patients are very much aware that this is an issue, and it's interesting to have patients say, 'I don't want an opioid. I don't need this.' and we agree with this."

3. Both systems told WJHL their physicians rely on nonopioid pain treatments and said the reductions are the result of multiyear initiatives.

More articles on opioids: 
NYC files opioid lawsuit against 8 drugmakers, distributors 
One in seven nursing home residents receive long-term opioids prescriptions 
West Virginia cuts controlled substance dispensation by 31M pills — overdoses still rise

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