MHA Task Force Issues Opioid Policy for All EDs

MHA’s Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Task Force on Thursday issued a nine-point, provider-developed guidance document that hospital emergency departments (EDs) can adopt to help address the misuse of opioid prescriptions. This is phase one of the task force’s three-part effort, which will also include developing prescribing practices within ambulatory care settings and physician practice settings.

The nine principles establish baseline recommendations for opioid screening, prescribing practices, and working with patients prior to prescribing an opioid pain medication in a Massachusetts emergency department.  The policy also recognizes that each patient’s medical condition is unique, so it is not intended to interfere with or supersede the professional medical judgment of a treating clinician.  The Emergency Department Opioid Management guide is below.

There are many reasons why opioid pain medications find their way into society, and one source is prescribing practices within hospitals and other healthcare settings, said MHA’s V.P. of Clinical Affairs and task force Co-Chair Pat Noga, R.N., PhD.  “This new policy strikes a solid balance between recognizing the benefits of appropriate pain management and the potential risks inherent in opioid prescription medications,” she said. “Our efforts today are just one way Massachusetts hospitals and health systems are stepping up to do our part to fight this epidemic, which is claiming and ruining too many lives.”

In creating its ED opioid management policy, the Task Force examined policies and practices adopted in other states, and also considered internal practices developed by hospitals within Massachusetts.

“The tragedy of substance abuse has many root causes, and it will take a comprehensive approach to effectively tackle the situation,” said Lynn Nicholas, FACHE, president & CEO of MHA. “Massachusetts hospitals, health systems and affiliated physician practices have a crucial leadership role to play in helping to find and implement solutions.”

The policy has attracted positive feedback from other provider group and patient advocates, among others. Chris Herren, a former professional basketball player and founder of The Herren Project, which provides treatment navigation, education, and hope to those suffering from addiction, said, “As someone who has seen first-hand how harmful opiate addiction can be, I applaud MHA and the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Task Force for taking on this issue with care, compassion and courage.”

Herren’s interaction with Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital—Plymouth President Peter Holden, the co-chair of the task force, led to Holden’s impetus to initiate an effort with MHA for hospitals to take a leading role in finding a solution to the opiate crisis.

“This policy is our ‘opening salvo’ against the opioid abuse epidemic, the first of many steps our hospitals will take as part of our increasingly active role in the fight against inappropriate access to and misuse of prescription opioid pain medication,” Holden said.

The task force is made up of front-line experts from MHA’s members, including emergency room physicians, pain specialists, and addiction services physicians, among others. For a complete list of Task Force members and online resources, visit MHA’s Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Task Force website here.