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Seven Fundamental Ways to Improve Opioid Stewardship with Expert Healthcare Training

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that since 1999 there has been a six-fold increase in overdose deaths involving opioids—in 2018 alone, nearly 47,000 people died from an opioid-related overdose. As we look at the convergence of the COVID-19 and opioid crises, it becomes increasingly clear that overdose deaths have been accelerated by the pandemic. Individuals with substance use disorder have felt the impacts of the pandemic especially hard. Not only are there mental health ramifications of social distancing and isolation, but there have been challenges and barriers to individuals’ receiving the care they need. An estimated 81,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the U.S. between June 2019 and May 2020, resulting in the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded within a 12-month period. During this same period, there was a 38% increase in synthetic opioid overdoses.

National Quality Forum Has a History of Engagement about Opioid Issues

Recognizing the need, the National Quality Forum (NQF) convened an opioid stewardship action team to identify strategies and tactics to help clinicians better manage patients' pain while reducing the risk of opioid addiction. This effort resulted in the National Quality Partners (NQP) Playbook: Opioid Stewardship. The playbook is a practical, action-oriented resource guide to support healthcare organizations and clinicians who are committed to effective pain management and opioid stewardship. It is based on seven fundamental pillars of opioid stewardship that are the foundation for the courses included in the new HealthStream opioid stewardship courseware. This active curriculum takes the learner on an organization's opioid stewardship journey through a series of scenarios. Upon conclusion of the curriculum, healthcare leaders and clinicians will be able to confidently identify and implement recommended practices and strategies for creating or strengthening an opioid stewardship program at their organization.

Two Opioid Stewardship Learning Tracks – One for Leaders and One for Clinicians

The first of two curriculum tracks is designed for leaders, including healthcare administrators, patient safety and quality leaders, and compliance and regulatory staff. The secondary track is intended for frontline staff, clinicians, and other care providers, such as physicians, nurses, physicians’ assistants, advanced practice nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and others who provide direct care. Each track includes seven courses aligned with the fundamental action areas within the playbook.

Each course has learning objectives and a high-level introduction of the key concepts within the fundamental action area, as well as scenarios depicting the implementation strategies, challenges, and solutions. The interactive and engaging courses also include scenario recaps, followed by a showcase of a related expert response, as well as a post-test associated with each course. The courses included for each track are:

  1. Leadership Commitment and Culture - Strong leadership drives the effectiveness of a healthcare organization's efforts to implement appropriate pain management and opioid stewardship.
  2. Organizational Policies - An essential tool for integrating opioid stewardship into a healthcare organization's culture.
  3. Clinical Knowledge, Expertise, and Practice - An understanding of the science of pain, comprehensive pain assessment and management, and opioid prescribing guidelines for accrued and chronic pain serve as the backbone for appropriate opioid prescribing.
  4. Patient, Family, and Caregiver Engagement and Education - Successful opioid stewardship requires leaders to engage patients, families, and caregivers in discussions and decisions about the risks and benefits of multiple pain management options.
  5. Tracking, Monitoring, and Recording - Identifying opportunities for improvement and assessing the impact of opioid stewardship effort requires regular and ongoing tracking and monitoring of key metrics.
  6. Accountability - Key areas describe opportunities for enabling leaders to set measurable goals to promote, establish, and maintain that culture of opioid stewardship; emphasize the importance of articulating expectations clearly, and ensure that accountability exists at all levels across the organization.
  7. Community Collaboration - To achieve maximum impact and effectiveness, an opioid stewardship program must involve collaboration and coordination with community leaders and stakeholders.

This courseware creates an engaging, hands-on learning opportunity for individuals, through training that includes scenarios, knowledge tracks, and interactive activities to maintain readers’ attention. The courses support organizations who want to take their opioid stewardship initiatives to the next level by offering strategies for implementation of national guidelines in order to maximize impact and improve patient safety.

This blog post is the second of two based on the NQF-HealthStream Webinar, Addressing the Opioid Epidemic: Creating an Effective Opioid Stewardship Program, which featured presenter Meredith Gerland, Senior Director, Quality Innovation, National Quality Forum. NQF is a not-for-profit, non-partisan, membership-based organization that works to catalyze improvements in healthcare. NQF's members include nearly 400 organizations representing every sector of healthcare. Their mission is to be the trusted voice driving measurable health improvements. For the past 20 years, NQF and its members have been at the forefront of advancing health care quality while tackling the health care system's most urgent needs.

Learn more about the NQF Opioid Stewardship Fundamentals online course.

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