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Opioids: Focus on quality of care and quality of life

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Pain affects tens of millions of Americans and contributes substantially to death, disability, demands on the health care system and the costs of health care. With the rise of opioid use disorder, we are focusing on treating our patients’ pain both safely and effectively.

We have focused our initial work on three main groups of patients: surgical, chronic pain and maternity. We have been able to increase these patients’ function and increase their comfort, while at the same time decreasing our prescription of opioids to these patients in amounts equivalent to hundreds of thousands of pills.

Less use of opioids decreases our patients’ risk of side effects including mental cloudiness, nausea and constipation as well as decreases their risks of more serious problems such as accidental overdose and opioid use disorder.

How are we accomplishing this? Our general surgery, neurosurgery, orthopedics, and OB-GYN groups are better preparing patients for surgery as well as offering a variety of techniques that include over-the-counter medications and even gum chewing to help patients better manage their pain without opioids.

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Fighting the opioid crisis together with Medication-Assisted Treatment program

The WellSpan Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) program helped Michael Graybill reclaim his life from opioids, which he became addicted to after a series of joint surgeries.

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Fewer opioids and more comfortable patients

Our surgical practices who first began this work have already been able to decrease the amount of opioids they prescribe at discharge by the equivalent of more than 12,000 oxycodone 5 mg pills a year.

Our OB-GYN practices are using something called a “Comfort Bundle,” which includes heat, regular acetaminophen and chewing gum, to help patients after surgery. As a result, our physicians have seen a 40 percent decrease in opioids given to new moms after a C-section while, at the same time, improving their pain control.

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Our physicians and clinicians in our outpatient practices have been using many different approaches to effectively treat patients’ chronic pain, decreasing the amount of opioids they prescribe to those with chronic pain.

Our physicians and clinicians treating inpatients in our hospitals are also using a variety of techniques to ensure patients receive safe, effective pain control.  They have been able to decrease the amount of opioids they prescribe while the patient is in the hospital.

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