Early in our initiative, AAMC decided to get the patients involved. We wanted to know how often they were really taking the opioids that we prescribed to them after surgery. So we built an electronic tracker that patients could use to tell us when they were taking the pills and why. What we discovered was really eye opening.
It turns out that our patients, on average, were taking less than half of the pills that they were prescribed. And when you looked at why they were taking them, most of the time it wasn’t because they were in pain. Instead, they were taking them because “the doctor instructed me to take them in the morning”. This really changed the way the surgeons thought about prescribing when they sent the patients home. When you couple this new knowledge with the fact that leftover medications are the most commonly abused opioids in the community, it made a lot of sense to quickly “right-size” these prescriptions. That group of surgeons has, since, reduced their prescribing by over 50%.
It’s important to get the patients involved!