Better Prescribing Practices: Opioid CME for Physicians

Opioid CME for Physicians

1 in 7 people in the United States has been negatively impacted by opioid addiction, which means this epidemic is going to touch the lives of individuals living in nearly every community in the nation today. Healthcare institutions around the globe have spent almost a decade fighting the opioid crisis with varying results, and it represents one of the most prevalent and concerning public health challenges of the 21st century.

Many things have contributed to the evolution of opioid addiction. Some negative outcomes are the result of poor standards of practice while others were completely outside the control of the industry. The COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, isolated at-risk patients for opioid addiction and exacerbated existing conditions like depression and anxiety, and the downstream effects of the two together resulted in a decline in U.S. life expectancy.

While the opioid crisis is by no means over, tremendous progress has been made in establishing safe and effective modalities for pain management and responsible opioid prescribing. The new reality is that, if needed, opioids can be prescribed safely by healthcare professionals with highly desirable results with the proper training and awareness. Education in best practices accessed via quality opioid CME for physicians equips you with the latest statistics and best practices for deploying them safely in your practice. 

High-Risk Factors for Opioid Addiction

A key driver in the increased use of opioids for the management of acute and chronic pain was the cultural shift in how pain should be evaluated and managed at the bedside. In the early 2000s caregivers were encouraged—and in some cases required—to implement self-reported pain assessment scales and to consider pain as the “5th vital sign”. 

This was further compounded by a parallel focus on patient satisfaction that included surveys that simply asked patients about how their pain was being managed. If healthcare providers wanted good survey results, they needed to ensure they eliminated as much pain as possible. 

This equation resulted in the rampant over-prescription of addictive pain medications, and the lessons learned are the basis of the strategies and best practices being developed in the industry today. Here are some of the primary areas of concern that need to be considered when prescribing opioids to patients:

  • First-Line Usage: Opioids should not be prescribed if there are effective and lower-risk alternatives that are not addictive.
  • Type of Pain: Patients suffering from acute pain often have extreme experiences that are best managed by opioids, but they tend to last for shorter durations which makes addiction less likely. Patients suffering from chronic pain are at extremely elevated risk from long-term use and should be monitored closely.
  • Unrealistic Expectations: Patients who are not informed about what to expect in terms of pain after treatments or trauma may be ill-equipped to manage their experience. 
  • Isolation: Patients who don’t have stable support systems in their lives to help manage opioid use are at greatly elevated risk for developing addiction. 
  • Lifestyle and Family History: Both of these factors can play a role in the development of opioid addiction, and physicians need to engage in close interprofessional collaboration to develop a full understanding of potential risks. 

Some or all of these factors may be present in any particular patient profile, and it is the ongoing responsibility of physicians to develop as full a picture as possible when developing a pain management strategy that includes opioids. 

Developing Safer Prescribing Practices

The lessons of the past have led to a fundamental shift in the ideology of opioid prescribing as well as a host of safer strategies and protocols. Current opioid CME for physicians is giving them the concepts and tools they need to leverage safe opiate prescribing with integrative and ethical approaches to pain management, and physicians need to incorporate new strategies and technologies into their practice as soon as possible. 

Utilize Non-Addictive Alternatives

The short and long-term effects of opioids have become painfully evident in the wake of the opioid crisis. As a result, a shift has occurred in a direction away from opioids as first-line medications and towards medication like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. With an appreciation for the root cause of the pain (such as post-procedural inflammation), these medications are turning out to be extremely effective at keeping people comfortable.

 Patient Education 

The movement in the direction of non-opioid medication to manage pain has also been coupled with increased attention to patient education. Providers must set the expectations for pain management and equip patients with the strategies they need to contextualize their experience. 

For some patients, it is unrealistic for them to think they will be completely pain-free—but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If the pain they’re dealing with is well within tolerable thresholds and they have alternative strategies available, patients are empowered to help themselves undergo the safest recovery.  Additionally, healthcare professionals can offer context and coaching for how to get additional guidance if they feel their pain isn’t being managed well.

Engage Interprofessional Support

Physicians may hold the prescription pad, but that doesn’t mean they have all the answers. They should be prepared to refer patients with significant risk factors to appropriate service providers and mental health experts in order to avoid harmful outcomes. 

There are many physical, mental, and emotional complications that can contribute to making the use of opioids a challenge for any given patient, and physicians need to maintain open lines of communication with supporting staff to make the best possible decisions. 

Leverage Prescription Technology

Responsible opioid prescribing practice should always include the use of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP) to make identifying and avoiding problems as simple as possible. At the point of care and clinical decision-making, prescribers can use PDMP to see if the patients they are treating have received controlled substance prescriptions from any other providers. In monitoring the prescription of scheduled medication, at-risk patients can be identified, risky prescriptions can be avoided, and patients may be able to receive the help they need for a potential substance use disorder.

E-prescribing has rapidly become the standard for opioids, with some states making this the required standard for healthcare providers because of the advantages it provides. A written prescription presents an opportunity for it to be altered once it leaves the hands of the provider, and blank prescription pads may be a tempting theft target for patients or even staff suffering from addiction. 

Opioid CME for Physicians is More Important than Ever

There is no doubt the industry is gaining traction in the fight against the opioid crisis, and this is certainly in part due to the emphasis on education and training on prescribing opioids.  As serious as the opioid crisis is, there are many competing priorities for physicians that can make it difficult to meet CME requirements 

Premiere knows this all too well, and to support providers and the patients they serve we’re making it easier than ever for healthcare professionals to get the CME they need. Up-to-date online education like Chronic Pain - Therapies, Treatment, and Management Options created by Mary Ellen Biggerstaff DNP, MPH, FNP, and This is such a pain in the…Mouth! How to Treat Oral Pain and the Role of Opioids created by Grant Hunsicker, DDS, General Dentist, Hunsicker Family Dental, and Megan Arbour, PhD, RN, CNM, CNE, Associate Professor, Frontier Nursing University, is putting valuable opioid CME for physicians at your fingertips. 

All content by Premiere is created by industry-leading experts, and makes it easy to stay current, compliant, and informed about a range of critical topics in the healthcare industry.

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