Opioid Prescribing Practices and Quality Improvements Within an Outpatient Orthopedic Practice

Cureus. 2021 Apr 6;13(4):e14332. doi: 10.7759/cureus.14332.


Background During the last several decades, the opioid epidemic throughout the United States has been recognized as an increasing problem. The aim of this study was to identify and implement processes throughout a single private orthopedic practice and managed ambulatory surgery centers to reduce opioid prescription pill quantity and strength, while also reducing consumption. Methodology A baseline assessment along with the development of four separate phases was implemented. Data collection included type, dosage, and quantity of opioids prescribed after elective outpatient procedures as well as patient interviews/surveys within two weeks after surgery. Quality improvement implementation included: (a) presentations on opioid prescribing at an individual physician level, (b) internal prescription guidelines, (c) required Prescription Monitoring Program registration, and (d) patient narcotic education pamphlets after surgery. The average opioids prescribed and consumed were compared between different time points. Results Analysis revealed a highly statistically significant decrease in both pills and morphine equivalent units (MEUs) prescribed (p < 0.001, p < 0.001) between the baseline assessment and four subsequent phases, as well as consumed (p < 0.001, p < 0.001) between phases one through four. Even though patients were consuming less pills and MEUs than they were prescribed on average across all phases, overall pain levels increased between phases one through four (p < 0.001), and overall satisfaction of pain control decreased between phases two through four (p < 0.001). Conclusions Over a 24-month time frame, a single private orthopedic practice set a goal of reducing prescribing habits and with successful implementation of various measures, a significant reduction in opioids prescribed and consumed was accomplished. Interestingly, pain level and satisfaction of pain control worsened even though patients were continuing to be prescribed more opioids on average than they were consuming. Therefore, it may be normal to see these results when attempting to set the expectation for some level of pain and reduced consumption of opioid medications post-operatively. Overall, these results can be useful to healthcare administrators and surgeons looking for ways to combat the opioid epidemic.

Keywords: ambulatory surgery center; opioid prescribing; outpatient surgery.