Drawing from Successful ER Pilot, Statewide Coalition Looks to Limit Opioids Across Hospital Departments
A statewide coalition of medical associations are taking aim at the opioid epidemic following a successful pilot program that reduced the use of opioids in emergency departments across the Front Range, including at Boulder Community Health’s Foothills Hospital in Boulder.
Colorado Clinicians United to Resolve the Epidemic, or CO’s CURE, will train doctors in various fields and help them develop policies to reduce the use of opioids across departments in hospitals. The goal is to “limit them as a first-line pain treatment option,” according to Cara Welch, communications director for the Colorado Hospital Association.
Nationally, more people now die of opioid overdoses than die in car crashes. In 2017 in Colorado, 558 people died of an opioid overdose.
To combat the epidemic, some doctors are rethinking how they treat pain and increasingly using “alternatives to opioids,” or ALTOs, to avoid prescribing opioids when it’s not necessary. Doctors in emergency rooms instead used everyday medications like ibuprofen, nonopioid painkillers and simple techniques like applying ice and elevating injured body parts.
Welch said the hospital association recognizes that some patients still will require opioids in their treatment, so the program is aimed at reduction and not elimination.
The statewide coalition consists of the hospital association, Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Colorado Medical Society. The medical society will reach out to other specialty societies to partner with physicians for the project, Welch said.
As the various societies develop protocols and guidelines, pilot programs will be started at hospitals across the state. The goal is to get programs ready to roll out statewide by 2020, Welch said.
This endeavor is building off of the success of the hospital association’s previous pilot program that began in 2017 and reduced the use of opioids in emergency rooms.
“Basically, we want to take the learning from that program and then extend it to other areas of the hospital,” Welch said.
Since the 10 departments in the pilot reduced their use of opioids by 36 percent, the program has extended to 65 Colorado hospitals with emergency departments. At least 50 departments have a live program or a scheduled date to go live, Welch said, and the others are working with the hospital association.
The original goal of the program was to reduce the use of opioids by 15 percent. The departments greatly surpassed that goal, and then continued to improve the program, reaching a 62 percent reduction by the end of 2018.
“Not only are those pilot sites sustaining that change, but they’re also continuing to reduce their use of opioids,” Welch said.
Foothills Hospital, part of Boulder Community Health, was the only Boulder County participant in the pilot. A number of UCHealth hospitals, including the UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, participated as well.
Other area hospitals launched their own informal programs to reduce opioid use, including UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital and Longmont United Hospital.
Madeline St. Amour: 303-684-5212, firstname.lastname@example.org