Reducing Postoperative Opioid Prescribing

The Problem

Opioid overdoses are a leading cause of death in Wisconsin, and Wisconsin’s age-adjusted, per capita rate of opioid-related deaths (15.2 per 100,000 in 2015) consistently exceeds national averages. The most common path to opioid addiction is access to legally prescribed opioid pain medications, and surgeons are among the most common sources of those prescriptions. Yet there is enormous variation in the prescribing practices of individual surgeons for common, standard general surgery operations. Most patients, when surveyed, take much less opioid pain medication than prescribed. Existing prescription monitoring tools such as the Physician Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) do not provide benchmark data to surgeons about their prescribing practices and do not provide any longitudinal data about patients’ opioid use after surgery. Without those data, surgeons are not able to make informed decisions about their own prescribing practices or advocate for change within their own communities.

Our Initiative

SCW will address this crisis on a number of fronts. First, we are engaging and partnering with surgeons and statewide leaders in the opioid reduction effort by sharing resources, educational materials, and data. Second, we are analyzing opioid prescription fills following surgical procedures in Wisconsin to identify best practices and opportunities for education and prescription reduction. Third, we will distribute surgeon-level prescribing reports with statewide benchmarks to surgeons. Finally, we are creating both distance learning and in-person opportunities to discuss and refine best practices for opioid prescribing, such as this webinar, which SCW hosted in April 2018.

Together, we can combat Wisconsin's opioid epidemic