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Mayo Clinic says opioid controlled substance agreements safely reduce healthcare visits and decrease utilization

Here's a look at what Mayo achieved and what goes into such an agreement with patients.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

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WHAT HAPPENED

New research published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that adhering to a standardized care process model for opioid prescriptions appears to reduce the overall number of healthcare visits for patients on long-term opioid therapy, thereby decreasing utilization while maintaining safety.

HERE'S THE IMPACT

Because patients on long-term opioid therapy often have significantly more healthcare visits than other people, hospitals that safely decrease utilization can help to make that patient population healthier and reduce the burden and strain that unnecessary utilization puts on their bottom line and operations.

THE BIGGER TREND

The new data comes as Healthcare Finance News parent HIMSS called on the industry to engage in four practices that will ultimately improve how it battles the opioid crisis: leverage prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, make data interoperable for clinicians, use secure digital health tools across the care continuum and harness today's tech for cross-discipline data sharing. 

Technology and policy are coming together in a number of ways to battle the opioid problem, while a number of state government, hospitals and health insurance companies are leading their own charge in taking on the issue that research firm Altarum said earlier this year has cost the U.S. $1 trillion since 2001. 

MAYO'S TAKE: WHAT'S IN A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE AGREEMENT

Researchers said the controlled substance agreement provides patients a structure and reduced the likelihood that they seek medical attention to further manage or diagnose their pain. 

Such agreements include patient psychological screening, pain monitoring, refill documentation, evaluation of opioid use through prescription monitoring programs and urine drug testing. 

It also includes guidance on having just one care team prescribe opioids; safe medication storage; not sharing medications; dose changes without contacting the prescribing provider; and expectations for follow-up appointments.

Enrollment in an opioid controlled substance agreement appeared to significantly reduce primary care visits while not increasing the use of emergency department services, researchers found. Among patients with chronic health conditions, the agreement was associated with decreased hospitalizations, as well as primary care and specialty visits. The agreement also played a role in the number of healthcare visits based on age, among other patient factors.

Mayo also hypothesized that the reduction in primary care visits for patients who are on such an agreement could be related to changes in the types of visits for those patients.

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com

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