Survey: How hospital leaders are responding to the opioid crisis

Opioid prescription
About 1 in 5 health system leaders said the opioid epidemic had a limited impact on their overall ability to serve patients.(Getty/eggeeggjiew)

Hospitals are being forced to reallocate resources to respond to the opioid epidemic, according to a recent survey (PDF) from health consulting group Vizient Inc.

In the survey of about 90 member hospital and health system leaders, about 30% reported seeing the increased volume of opioid-related admissions causing longer wait times for all patients. Two in three health system leaders said their organization increased their investment in opioid medication management in the last year and nearly 30% said resources had been diverted from other areas of their facility to deal with the opioid epidemic. 

RELATED: Philadelphia fell victim to the opioid epidemic. Its largest insurer is trying to save it

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About 1 in 5 health system leaders said the opioid epidemic had a limited impact on their overall ability to serve patients.

So what responses did healthcare leaders believe have been most effective?

The survey found 78% allocated resources to new prescriber education, 56% added new technologies to monitor prescribing and 54% began offering new alternatives for pain management. They also pointed to prescriber limits on dosage/quantities (44%), safe disposal of old medications (43%) and opioid stewardship programs (33%). 

The changes they indicated were most helpful included offering dosage guidelines for acute care patients upon discharge with 74% of those from facilities that have put them in place saying they were most effective. Two in three leaders said adopting new dosage guidelines was very effective, and half said investing in new technologies was most effective.

"The process changes hospitals have implemented on the front lines of the opioid epidemic are beginning to play their part in curbing abuse and misuse," said Jim Lichauer, project manager of performance improvement collaboratives and advisory for Vizient in a statement. "Equally important is the need to create a culture within hospitals that understands and is sensitive to substance use disorders, especially opioids."