Physicians identify ways to improve opioid overdose prevention

Amy Farouk
Past Editor
AMA Wire
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A national physician survey released Thursday shows strong support for key policies and recommendations to end the nation’s opioid epidemic, including ways to improve prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP), enhance physician education and remove barriers to care. Learn what physicians said and discover resources that can help advance their efforts.

The survey, which was commissioned by the AMA and the AMA Task Force to Reduce Prescription Opioid Abuse, had five key findings:

  • PDMPs can be valuable tools: 87 percent of physicians agree that PDMPs help them become more informed about a patient’s prescription history. Physicians who aren’t already registered to use their state’s PDMP can easily find how to do so through the task force resource pages, which include links directly to the state databases and education materials on how physicians can use PDMPs to enhance clinical treatment. 
  • PDMPs need changes to be more beneficial: Physicians said that PDMPs would be much more helpful if they were improved to integrate with electronic health records, provide real-time data and other key features that would make them even more useful. The AMA task force is urging states to ensure these and other important features are part of their PDMPs.
  • Physicians are educated but want more specific continuing medical education (CME): 68 percent of survey respondents said they have taken CME on safe opioid prescribing, and 55 percent have taken CME on managing pain with opioid alternatives. But the survey found that physicians are seeking more practice-specific and specialty-specific education, with 1 in 4 physicians saying the CME they needed was not readily available. The task force offers a full collection of the most up-to-date state and specialty-specific education resources so physicians can easily find the materials they need. In addition, several medical organizations offer waiver-qualifying medication-assisted treatment (MAT) training to help physicians recognize patients with substance use disorder and become certified to increase access to treatment. 
  • Significant barriers exist to non-pharmacologic and non-opioid treatments: Physicians said the main barriers to using alternatives to opioids include a lack of coverage by insurance companies, difficulty finding a specialist to which they can refer their patients for pain treatment and pressures to ensure they achieve a high patient satisfaction score.

  • Physicians strongly support co-prescribing naloxone: More than 80 percent of physicians said that naloxone should be available to a patient at risk of an overdose via a standing order or collaborative practice agreement with a pharmacist. The AMA offers model legislation that includes support for standing orders and also has supported more than 20 state laws that increase access to naloxone in the community. Physicians can access additional information about naloxone from the task force.

“This survey provides an important window into physicians’ perceptions about caring for patients with pain and those with substance use disorders,” AMA President Steven J. Stack, MD, said. “This survey confirms that physicians support many of the key policies being considered to end this crisis. The AMA and the nation’s physicians are committed to partnering with others to implement proven solutions.”

The survey was conducted for the AMA by TNS Global Research between Nov. 13 and 23. The sample size was 2,130 practicing physicians who provide a minimum of 20 hours per week in direct patient care, have a current Drug Enforcement Administration license to prescribe Schedule II controlled substances and prescribe opioids at least on a weekly basis. The sample included all practice settings and regions in the United States.

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