Overworked physicians may inadvertently contribute to the opioid epidemic

To begin to tackle the nation's prescription opioid epidemic, the industry must first deal with the problem of overburdened physicians, writes Bruce Y. Lee in a Forbes commentary.

Overloaded physicians are one potential contributor to the opioid epidemic as they struggle to deal with pain medication-seeking patients in time-limited visits, says Lee, an associate professor of international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"Denying someone who is distraught, sobbing, begging and persistent is very difficult, regardless of whether the patient's pain is legitimate, especially during a 15-minute patient visit and when a line of patients are waiting to see you. Prescribing opioids can seem the quicker fix," Lee says.

One proposed solution to help control opioid abuse? Require physicians to consult Prescription Drug Monitoring Program databases, which show a patient's prescription drug history, before they prescribe opioids to a patient, Lee says.

But before putting another responsibility on doctors, Lee says the industry must relieve their existing workload. He recommended several actions the industry can take. Here are three of them:

  • Make sure that the databases and any other new measures are easy for doctors to access and use, so they impose minimal burden
  • Reimburse doctors for the time they spend evaluating whether to prescribe opioids to a patient
  • Increase the number of pain specialists to handle opioid prescribing and managing pain

To learn more:
- read the article