Prescription for Safety

Addressing the opioid crisis: Inova’s new mindset for pain management

graphic of a prescription capsuleWe’ve all seen the grim statistics. Opioids kill more than 140 people every day in the United States. They cost our country tens of billions of dollars in treatment and lost productivity each year. Here in Virginia, 1,400 people died of opioid-related drug overdoses in 2016. Despite these devastating numbers, opioids continue to be prescribed at an alarmingly high rate.

Inova has acted to change the trajectory of this crisis with comprehensive approaches to rethink pain management. And it has achieved remarkable results. Since 2014, opioid prescribing has dropped approximately 20 percent a year systemwide, and Inova has significantly reduced Emergency Department visits by the highest opioid users.

Opioid reduction & pain management success at Inova Alexandria Hospital

One major success story is right here at Inova Alexandria Hospital. In 2016, a multidisciplinary team collaborated with admitting physicians and pain specialists to transform the culture around Dilaudid, one of the most powerful and commonly prescribed opioid analgesics. Evidence-based ordering practices and alternative pain management strategies resulted in a steep drop in Dilaudid orders, to 3 percent from 54 percent, in just one year. Overall opioid orders fell by 25 percent. Patient safety and physician satisfaction improved, and the hospital saved more than $40,000.

The gravity of the opioid epidemic requires a profound cultural shift. Inova believes that real change comes only as physicians, nurses, clinicians and healthcare leaders everywhere commit to a new mind-set in pain management.

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