News, Announcements and Expert Commentary from Inova

Another step forward in the fight against opioid addiction

Dr. Loring FlintDr. Loring Flint is Inova’s Chief Physician Executive and High Reliability Officer.

On October 24, Virginia Senator Mark Warner announced that a bipartisan opioids bill was signed into law by the president. As Senator Warner’s letter explained, “This comprehensive legislation will help communities across Virginia by improving opioid treatment and recovery efforts and providing new tools for law enforcement.”

No community is immune to the opioid epidemic. In our community far too many families are devastated by overdoses and deaths. To combat this growing heath crisis, Inova has taken a leadership role in reducing opioid use through its opioid reduction initiative.

Because a person’s first exposure to opiates often happens in a hospital or emergency department setting, the opioid reduction initiative aims to decrease patients’ opioid exposure while continuing to relieve their pain. The opioid reduction initiative involves:

  1. Educating hospital personnel about alternative medications that may be used in the place of narcotics.
  2. Monitoring opioid prescriptions through a state database.
  3. Educating patients and families about their options.
  4. Providing a continuum of care to resolve each patient’s pain issues.

Inova emergency personnel have been working closely with all of Inova’s hospital departments and across the system to adopt a highly effective standardized approach to treating pain, both in the emergency setting and after a patient is discharged.

There are many other options for treating pain, and Inova providers are moving away from opioids as a first-line therapy in favor of more targeted, multilayered approaches.

Inova’s initiative meets new regulations regarding opioid use approved in 2017 by the Virginia Board of Medicine. When a patient is admitted to the ER with painful symptoms, the staff consults the National Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to learn whether the patient is already being treated with narcotic medications.

In addition, Inova emergency providers are equipped to connect patients with community resources for follow-up and specialist care to help them find lasting relief from their symptoms. The emergency department’s team of on-call medical specialists helps develop a pain control plan for the patient. And once a patient is discharged from the ER, emergency personnel prescribe non-narcotic medications as a first-line treatment when appropriate.

Across Inova, we are working to reduce opioid addiction by changing the way we think about pain, and by carefully examining how we can treat pain to best serve the long-term health and wellness of every patient.

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