A behavioral intervention to promote use of multimodal pain medication for hospitalized patients: A randomized controlled trial

J Hosp Med. 2023 Aug;18(8):685-692. doi: 10.1002/jhm.13153. Epub 2023 Jun 25.


Background: The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can reduce pain and has become a core strategy to decrease opioid use, but there is a lack of data to describe encouraging use when admitting patients using electronic health record systems.

Objective: Assess an electronic health record system to increase ordering of NSAIDs for hospitalized adults.

Designs, settings and participants: We performed a cluster randomized controlled trial of clinicians admitting adult patients to a health system over a 9-month period. Clinicians were randomized to use a standard admission order set.

Intervention: Clinicians in the intervention arm were required to actively order or decline NSAIDs; the control arm was shown the same order but without a required response.

Main outcome and measures: The primary outcome was NSAIDs ordered and administered by the first full hospital day. Secondary outcomes included pain scores and opioid prescribing.

Results: A total of 20,085 hospitalizations were included. Among these hospitalizations, patients had a mean age of 58 years, and a Charlson comorbidity score of 2.97, while 50% and 56% were female and White, respectively. Overall, 52% were admitted by a clinician randomized to the intervention arm. NSAIDs were ordered in 2267 (22%) interventions and 2093 (22%) control admissions (p = .10). Similarly, there were no statistical differences in NSAID administration, pain scores, or opioid prescribing. Average pain scores (0-5 scale) were 3.36 in the control group and 3.39 in the intervention group (p = .46). There were no differences in clinical harms.

Conclusions and relevance: Requiring an active decision to order an NSAID at admission had no demonstrable impact on NSAID ordering. Multicomponent interventions, perhaps with stronger decision support, may be necessary to encourage NSAID ordering.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid* / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Patients
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal