Study Illustrates Need for Better Patient/Provider Communications on Opioid Therapy

A new study published online in the Annals of Emergency Medicine found that patients seen in the emergency department for acute pain expressed a desire for better communication from physicians about their pain management options, along with discussion of the risks of opioid dependence. The study was conducted via semi-structured open-ended telephone interviews of patients discharged from the emergency department at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania during a 4 month period in 2014. The subjects revealed several themes related to opioid dependence including 1) fear of developing dependence or addition; 2) worries about following prescribed dosing preventing the possibility of addiction; 3) relying on media and other individuals as a source of information about opioids; and 4) awareness of physicians' need to balance patients' pain management needs and safe opioid prescribing guidelines.

Senior author Zachary F. Meisel, MD, MPH, MS, assistant professor and attending physician in the department of emergency medicine, observed, "It was interesting to find that patients believe that taking an opioid as prescribed prevents the possibility of addiction, but also that patients are learning about opioids from television and from friends and acquaintances—not healthcare providers." The study noted patient reports of desire to be engaged in treatment planning, and that fragmentation in communications between providers was detrimental to better outcomes. The importance of patient engagement has been frequently emphasized at PAINWeek conferences, and strategies for better communications are among the topics considered by conference attendees.

Read a news release about the Penn study here.


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