VA releases data on opioid prescribing rates at its hospitals 

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The VA has released data on opioid prescriptions at its hospitals. (Getty/Gti337)

The Department of Veterans Affairs has publicly posted opioid prescribing rates at its hospitals, becoming the first health system in the country to do so. 

The data is available on an interactive map that highlights each VA hospitals' opioid prescribing rate in 2012 and 2017 and includes a percentage difference between the two. For example, at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center, part of the Phoenix VA Health Care System where wait times launched a nationwide scandal, the opioid prescribing rate has decreased by 51% from 21% in 2012 to 10% in 2017.  

The facility is located in a state with high opioid prescription rates among hospitals outside the VA, according to the map, a ranking that includes the top 40% of states in opioid prescribing based on data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 

Opioid prescribing rates decreased by 41% across the VA health system between 2012 and 2017 and 99% of VA hospitals decreased those rates in that window, according to an announcement. In 2012, the VA launched a safety initiative on opioids that led to a steady decrease in opioid prescriptions. 

RELATED: VA secretary issues blunt assessment of care for veterans 

VA Secretary David Shulkin, M.D., said releasing the prescribing figures is part of the VA's promise of transparency under the Trump administration. The agency has also released data on wait times, Shulkin's travel expenses and accountability actions over the past year. 

"While VA offers other pain management options to reduce the need for opioids, it is important that we are transparent on how we prescribe opioids, so veterans and the public can see what we are doing in our facilities and the progress we have made over time," Shulkin said. 

RELATED: Investigation finds more than 1,000 doctors disciplined for risky opioid prescribing 

Cutting down on opioid prescription rates and exploring other avenues of pain management is a key strategy to combat the addiction crisis from the healthcare industry side. Some physicians have been hesitant to slash opioid prescriptions, however, as many patients demand them—and patient satisfaction scores play a role in reimbursement

The VA health system has also been under intense scrutiny over the past several years following the wait time scandal. Since then, it's been reported that for more than 15 years, VA hospitals hired doctors with revoked licenses and that a number of medical centers have failed to report potentially dangerous clinicians.