3 strategies for changing the culture of pain management


As the opioid addiction epidemic continues, hospitals across the country are taking steps to change the way they approach pain management.

The Department of Health and Human Services has been encouraging providers to move away from more traditional ways of thinking about how to help patients manage pain, according to an article in Hospitals & Health Networks. Here’s how some facilities are tackling the challenge:

St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center: Start in the emergency department

At St. Joseph’s in New Jersey, their efforts began by reducing the number of opioid prescriptions in the emergency department, according to the article. Initially, the goal was an “opioid-free” ER, but a more realistic goal was set and emergency physicians were provided with more resources and were encouraged to treat opioids as a last line of defense for pain management. The initiative has been a success so far, as since January opioid prescriptions in the ED have dropped by 38 percent, according to the article. “We needed to change the perception so that physicians now had a larger toolbox; they had more medications that they could go to,” Mark Rosenberg, D.O., chairman of emergency medicine at the hospital, told H&HN.

Duke University Health System: Emphasis on education

Duke formed an Opioid Task Force, according to the article, that examined best practices offered by the state’s medical board and how they could be put into action. Educating providers on pain management and safe use of opioids was key, and those efforts have been incorporated into the residency program. The task force trains docs to learn more about pain instead of shuffling patients to a specialist, according to the article, and monthly consultation calls with pain experts give physicians the chance to think about options for pain management.

Salem Township Hospital: Tackling rural care concerns

In more isolated regions, patients may have few pain management options, according to the article. To combat that, the 25-bed facility near St. Louis added a pain specialist who travels in twice a month to meet with patients. The patients who are prescribed opioids must sign an agreement that they will submit to regular drug testing and not seek early refills. Since April, only three of 56 patients chose to continue on the opioid track, according to the article.