- Intermountain Healthcare said Tuesday it intends to decrease opioid prescribing throughout the system 40% by the end of next year, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
- The company said it has already trained 2,500 prescribers in strategies to reduce opioid use, and is currently focusing on cases of acute pain.
- The announcement is the first of its kind from a health system and comes as the opioid crisis is receiving more attention throughout the country.
The epidemic of opioid misuse is a giant problem for the U.S. healthcare system, but Intermountain’s campaign could have an impact. The Salt Lake City-based system has 22 hospitals and 18 clinics in Utah and Idaho, and could be an inspiration for other provider groups that want to address the issue.
In 2014, nearly 1.3 million hospitalizations in the U.S. involved opioids, according to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. The growing crisis is getting the attention of providers, payers, patient advocates and lawmakers at every level. President Donald Trump said two weeks ago he plans to declare the opioid crisis a national public health emergency, but hasn't taken any action or announced any details since then.
There are a variety of tools available for curbing opioid misuse. Many states are using prescription drug monitoring programs to gather use data and help providers flag patients who may be doctor shopping. Pain specialists are also pushing methods for treating chronic pain that don’t involve drugs. The gold standard for opioid addiction care is medication-assisted therapy, but providers say onerous restrictions are keeping many patients from trying that method.
Specialists in drug policy took a collective gasp earlier this year when HHS Secretary Tom Price dismissed the practice. Public health policy experts have also raised concern with Trump administration attempts to make massive cuts to Medicaid, which covers many people with addiction issues, and the number of federal government positions that have contributed to fighting the crisis in the past that remain unfilled.
Intermountain was careful to address concerns from patients who legitimately need opioids to manage their pain and are worried limiting access will harm them. It said chronic and acute pain patients will have access to the medication they need and “patients will have access to the full range of option to manage pain.”