In Australian hospital and healthcare facilities, there is a big focus on reducing the use of opioids as a first line treatment. Especially in emergency department settings and for long term pain management, decreasing opioid treatment puts additional pressure on clinicians in responding to patients seeking immediate pain relief.
The reason is quite simple: Opioids might provide immediate, short term relief but they have a lot of serious downsides including addiction, overdose and in some cases death. According to a report by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW Sydney, 1045 Australians aged 15-64 died of an opioid overdose in 2016 and the majority of these deaths (76%) were attributable to pharmaceutical opioids. The report highlights an increase over the last ten years in opioid-induced deaths, from 3.8 to 6.6 deaths per 100,000 Australians from 2007 to 2016, respectively.
It works to decrease opioid treatments
A recent NSW trial has demonstrated a 24% reduction in opioid prescribing for patients with acute back pain in emergency departments. Three hundred clinicians were trained to assess, manage and refer patients presenting with acute back pain without necessarily prescribing opioids and to provide alternatives such as other medications and heat wraps.
A key to the success of this trial was patient education and clear communication as well as a process for enabling fast track referrals to outpatient services including physiotherapy, primary care and specialist back clinics when required.
Overall, the feedback was positive. The ED team embraced the trial as they could see positive results immediately and the patients were pleased to receive focused care. The results of this trial have been published in BMJ Quality and Safety.
Here are some excellent resources available to help clinicians and their patients.
- Pain Australia
- The ACI Pain Management Network which has resources for patients and clinicians
- NPS: Opioids, chronic pain and the bigger picture
- Reach for the facts
- Choosing wisely Australia
- The opioid calculator app – when does a patient reach the danger zone?
- The Brainman series of videos explaining pain
Tego wants our healthcare clinicians to be informed
The articles can be useful in enabling patients to self-educate on the topic, which in turn will make them more aware of the implications of their treatment. It is our intention to promote healthy discussion and potentially increase interest in trying alternatives.
We are Australian medical indemnity insurance providers and cover your practice with medical indemnity insurance, doctors indemnity insurance, GP medical indemnity insurance, medical malpractice insurance, medical practice insurance, and more. If you are a health practitioner with Tego, we offer 24/7 medico-legal advice and support to guide you through the treacherous Opioid landscape.
This publication is general in nature and is not comprehensive or constitutes legal or medical advice. You should seek legal, medical or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practice proper clinical decision making with regard to individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgment or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Tego Insurance Pty Ltd is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information. All content on this page has been written in a generic way, and has not been presented with any knowledge of your personal objectives or financial needs.