Government and Regulations

VHA Looks to Reduce Overdoses With Opioid Therapy Risk Report

Providers can now review patient data about pain treatment in one place, protecting complex patients against overuse of prescription opioids.



To promote the use of the Opioid Therapy Risk Report, a computer tool designed to reduce opiate overprescribing, VA Interim Under Secretary for Health Dr. Carolyn Clancy visited more than 2,000 VHA primary care providers during the first week of March.

The risk report allows VHA staff to review information about pain treatment and the dosages of narcotics and other sedative medications in one place, helping to monitor patients already using high doses of opioids or those who have medical risk factors that put them at an increased risk of complications from opioid medications.

“It is critical that we ensure systemwide implementation of the Opioid Therapy Risk Report in the weeks ahead,” Dr. Clancy said.

According to Jennifer Kryskalla, PharmD, pharmacoeconomist and pharmacy data analyst for VISN 22 and coauthor of the September 2014 Federal Practitioner article “Using Dashboard Technology to Monitor Overdose Risk,” the Opioid Therapy Tool grew out of local dashboards like the one developed in VISN 22.

“VISNs 21 and 22 both had opioid dashboards, and all were invited to provide feedback on the development. These tools help our prescribers provide better, safer care for our veterans,” she explained.

“The Opioid Therapy Risk Report promotes a dialogue among the various disciplines responsible for providing care to veterans who have, in many cases, complex comorbidities that involve pain, combat injuries, and psychiatric conditions, such as PTSD and depression, related to high risk for suicide,” Peter Hauser, MD, the Mental Health Care Services lead in VISN 22 told Federal Practitioner. “However, the IT tool alone is just a beginning. A major part of the solution is to provide veterans with chronic pain and the clinicians who serve them other alternatives for pain relief, ones that also address psychiatric comorbidities.”

For more on the challenges in lowering veterans’ opioid use and reducing overdose risk, listen to this exclusive interview with Dr. Kryskalla and Dr. Hauser: "Lowering Veterans' Opioid Use and Reducing Overdose Risk."

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