3 ways physicians can curb painkiller abuse

If there is any silver lining to the opioid abuse crisis, it's the way it's inspired creative solutions to address the problem. Consider these three techniques that most physicians can adapt to serve their own patients' unique needs while reducing the risk of prescription drug abuse and dependence:

Physician-patient contracts. To ensure physicians and patients are on the same page regarding pain management, get an agreement in writing. This strategy is working for Scott Sigman, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Lowell General Hospital in Massachusetts, according to the Boston Business Journal. Before operating on patients, he has them sign a contract that sets a limit for the length of time they will take post-op opiates, after which requests for pain medication must go through a patient's primary care physician. Because of this approach, Sigman has been sought out by recovering addicts in need of surgery.

Distraction. Even during a procedure itself (when a local anesthetic is used) distraction can be a powerful drug, according to a study published in Pain Medicine. Researchers analyzed 98 patients who underwent minor surgery. They found that those allowed to text message with a companion or stranger or play a distracting mobile game had far less need for supplementary analgesics during the procedure than those who received only standard perioperative pain management. "Text messaging during surgery provides analgesic-sparing benefits that surpass distraction techniques, suggesting that mobile phones provide new opportunities for social support to improve patient comfort and reduce analgesic requirements during minor surgeries and in other clinical settings," the authors concluded.

E-prescribing. Electronic prescriptions are more difficult to tamper with than handwritten ones, Ken Whittemore, senior vice president of professional and regulatory affairs for Surescripts, told Managed Healthcare Executive. However, according to Surescripts, 70 percent of pharmacies are able to receive electronic prescriptions for controlled substances, while only 6 percent of providers are ready to e-prescribe, the article noted.

To learn more:
- read the article from Managed Healthcare Executive
- here's the story from the Boston Business Journal
- check out the study abstract