Focusing on Communication and Training Is Improving Opioid Prescription Oversight

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

As an offshoot of increased education, providers are increasingly focused on reaching out, through their boards and associations, to governmental agencies and legislative bodies to offer their expertise on pending legislation and current laws. They are making the valid point that the medical community’s input is needed so that rules and regulations being crafted have the advantage of a medical-delivery perspective—and so providers can ward off well-meant oversight efforts that could damage the care-delivery system and negatively affect patient outcomes.

Two-way communication smooths oversight path forward
 “Providers are having conversations with legislators and rule-makers on how best to address the crisis,” explains Anna M. Grizzle, an attorney with Nashville law firm, Bass, Berry & Sims. “One thing everyone can agree on is that we have a problem with the number of those who are addicted to opioids. The question is how best to address it and provide patients, particularly patients that have chronic pain, with access to the medical care they need to address their symptoms, while at the same time not exacerbating the addiction problems that we’re seeing.”

Renewed focus on training and compliance
Some of those efforts must be deployed throughout the healthcare continuum as opposed to simply focusing on prescribers. For instance, healthcare workforce education and training around opioid use and abuse is on the rise and is focused on awareness when it comes to signs and symptoms. Those efforts often focus on support staff in emergency rooms as well as the employed and contracted physicians there, as that is where many people with addiction first enter the healthcare system. They include a policy related to prescribing habits and safeguards on prescriptions alongside education around enforcement. Some also include auditing of providers, particularly to identify any outliers who may be overprescribing opioids. These programs are being designed to be customizable, because the opioid addiction crisis is fast-moving. Providers must evolve alongside it in order to protect both themselves and their patients.

“I think you’ll see a continuing refinement of best practices for addressing the current enforcement environment,” Grizzle explains. “That being said, providers should continue to focus on the basics, things like ensuring you have appropriate controls so that controlled medications can’t be diverted from the system. If there is a diversion, taking the appropriate steps to report it, investigate it, and implement any remedial actions that are needed. Also, continuing with education and auditing functions to ensure that any potential threat is addressed.”

There needs to be a focus on patients with chronic pain, she notes. “Those patients need medications and treatment, and physicians need to have mechanisms in place, or tools available, to provide that treatment. Providers can best protect themselves by educating patients on alternatives to opioids that will not be as addictive, will not have some of the negative side effects, but will control their pain.”

“Any time there is a new area of enforcement or a subject of increased scrutiny, it always provides an opportunity for a healthcare provider to review their compliance program and to make enhancements to improve it,” she adds. “There’s always a silver lining—the new rules allow you to apply self-critical analysis to determine how to do things better and be stronger.”

This Blog Post is an excerpt from the HealthStream Article, “Navigating the Unknowns of Opioid Regulation and Education: Regulatory and Enforcement Actions Around Opioid Addiction Heighten the Need for Awareness.”

Download the full article about Opioid Addiction, Enforcement, and Compliance Training.