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Change coming for opioid prescriptions

November 8, 2018

Patients who are prescribed opioids may soon find they face more questions and receive fewer pills for a shorter amount of time, Island Hospital Chief Informatics Officer John Mathis said.

The changes are spurred by new state rules on opioid prescribing set to take effect in January. The rules aim to improve opioid prescribing and monitoring.

The new rules require that opioid prescriptions not be written for longer than necessary for effective pain control, that justification for prescription quantity must be documented and that providers check in more often with the state Prescription Monitoring Program, according to state Department of Health documents.

The Prescription Monitoring Program is a statewide patient database designed to prevent drug misuse or “doctor shopping” — when a patient visits multiple doctors to get more opioid prescriptions.

Providers must also discuss the risks of opioids with patients before writing a prescription and complete additional hours of opioid prescribing training.

Area health providers said they’ll be making necessary changes to meet the new requirements, including integrating their internal records with the statewide Prescription Monitoring Program for easier access.

Mathis said it’s currently a cumbersome process for Island Hospital providers to access the statewide program, with about eight to 10 clicks needed to get to the point of entering a patient’s information.

He said integrating the hospital’s electronic medical records system with the statewide program will likely take well into the second quarter of 2019.

Island Hospital will also be creating templates to remind physicians of the new required documentation for prescribing and will be implementing tools to assess and evaluate patients, Mathis said.

Beginning in May this year, Skagit Regional Health has been leveraging electronic medical records to help staff limit the number of opioids that are prescribed to patients. Spokeswoman Kari Ranten said Skagit Regional Health hopes to integrate its data with the statewide Prescription Monitoring Program early next year.

“The new rules give physicians the ability to let patients know that, in addition to their expertise as a health care provider, there is a new state law behind the limitations they will set on opioid prescribing,” Ranten said.

Anthony Gargano, chair of the Northwest Network Quality Committee for PeaceHealth Medical Group, said the new rules won’t have a large impact on PeaceHealth United General Medical Center because the hospital already has a robust program for opioid prescribing and monitoring.

PeaceHealth has scheduled a Q&A session with the Washington Medical Commission for Wednesday, he said, and will make any necessary changes to its current program afterward.

At a late October news conference, state Department of Health Public Information Officer Julie Graham said the department will now be focusing on educating providers and patients on the new rules.

“This is a big change and we want to make sure that people understand what this does and doesn’t mean,” she said.

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