If you don’t currently have an opioid policy for your practice and patients, it’s time to create one. Orthopaedic practices have a responsibility to patients that extends beyond simply meeting the legal requirements; somewhere around 25% of patients who are prescribed opioids for medical issues misuse the drugs, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. We also know that 80% of heroin users started their addiction by abusing prescribed pain medications.
Developing a cohesive policy and staying up-to-date on the latest regulations prepares your practice to help patients manage their pain.
As the number of patients and former patients who suffer from opioid addiction rise, orthopedic practices are taking the initiative to build policies that help educate patients before, during, and after they’ve been prescribed any habit-forming medications.
Tips to Create a Comprehensive and Useful Opioid Policy
Creating an opioid policy isn’t just about meeting the legal requirements, although they are certainly a consideration. The truth is that we sometimes bombard patients with literature to the point that many won’t read extra material. Taking the time to speak about the policy directly with patients is key.
Here are a few tips to create an opioid policy for your orthopedic practice to better address the risks associated with these prescribed medications:
- Create a Comprehensive Policy. A narcotics prescription policy should outline your standard practices when prescribing narcotics for patients. This keeps your staff informed and clearly lays out the policy for patients. You might even consider making this a signed document as part of a patient’s intake forms to keep on file. It’s also a good practice to verbally explain this policy to the patient at first visit or prior to prescribing opioids. The policy should highlight proper use, and include a warning about the addictive risks of the medication.
- Discuss Your Policy with Staff Prior to Launch. Drafting a policy is a good first step, but it’s only useful if it’s effective. Your physicians and staff members know better than anyone the daily issues when prescribing opioids to patients. Their input can help you craft the most effective policy, giving them a stake in explaining it to patients directly.
- Stay Up to Date on State Requirements. State laws may change, which means that it’s important to stay up-to-date on current and future requirements so that your practice’s protocols align with regulations.
- Educate Patients on Alternative Pain Management Techniques. Opioids are not the only answer to pain management. If your organization can offer pain management services that extend beyond a prescription, such as physical therapy, you can offer it as an alternative. If you do not have the services in house, offering patients education on alternative or holistic pain management methods can be exceptionally useful, especially for those with chronic conditions.
An opioid policy should be at the top of your priority list for this year – either creating one or assessing your current policy to make sure it’s adequate in light of the current crisis. Ideally, your policy will help to educate patients and offer staff better tools to confidently handle situations as they present themselves.