New programs help ERs flag, discourage painkiller abuse

Many hospital emergency departments have cracked down on prescription narcotic addicts with programs that flag potential abusers and deny them medication except in emergencies, NPR reports. In Cheyenne Regional Medical Center in Wyoming, for example, a new program tailored specifically to the ED relies on a hospital panel composed of doctors and administrators that meet once a month to decide whether patients should be labeled abusers based on their ED usage and other behaviors. At San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington, New Mexico, a similar program cut down on ED overuse and saved the hospital about half a million dollars a year, according to NPR. However, some physicians worry that such programs take care decisions out of the hands of doctors and can prevent patients--particularly low-income ones who rely on the ED for primary care--from getting medication they need. Article