Original Research

The benefits of a standardized approach to opioid prescribing

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Soft rollout was November 1, 2015, to assist in working through the process before full rollout. We asked providers to complete the full process on at least 1 patient during this period. This run-through would help ensure that allied health staff who room the patients would have the CSA and Opioid Risk Tool already in the chart before the visit. Full rollout was January 2, 2016. Every 2 to 4 weeks after the full rollout, regular email reminders were sent to providers about the project process and allowed for any feedback about issues that arose.

There was a statistically significant reduction in the number of patients using opioids.

We provided regular updates and discussed the process at department meetings monthly. Quarterly data were reviewed and discussed for the first year of implementation. Providers and staff completed a chart review for each COT patient at project completion, to determine whether opioids had been decreased (in dosage) or discontinued, a nonopioid medicine had been initiated to augment pain control, or whether patients had died or left the practice.

Statistical analysis

We summarized binary data as counts and proportions and compared them using the chi square test. We summarized discrete data by their mean and standard deviation. To analyze binary variables measured repeatedly in time, we used the logistic generalized estimating equation (GEE) with an autoregressive (AR-1) correlation structure. We computed 95% confidence intervals (CIs)for odds ratios using the empirical or “sandwich” standard error estimates. For discrete variables representing counts, we used the negative binomial regression model.

For count data, a Poisson model is typically used; in our case the variance was considerably larger than the mean, exceeding the Poisson-model requirement that they not be significantly different if not exactly the same. This implies that the data are “over dispersed” or more variable than a Poisson model is thought to be able to model accurately. We therefore used a negative binomial model, which is regarded as the better model in this situation. The 95% CIs for the estimate resulting from the negative binomial regression model were computed using the profile-likelihood.10 All GEEs were clustered on patients (n = 358). We used SAS version 9.3 (Cary, NC) for all analyses.

A standardized COT process improved opioid monitoring over successive quarters


All providers enrolled for AZCSPMP. CSA completion increased from 16 (4.5%) at baseline to 156 (43.6%) after intervention (P < .001). Patients completed a urine drug screen more frequently as well, from 3 (0.8%) to 72 (20.1%) (P < .001) (TABLES 1 and 2). No statistically significant change was noted in the frequency of office visits.

Likelihood that the standardized process improved outcomes

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