Opioid Research Supports Plans to Educate Primary Care Doctors

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Jill Chadwick

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            A national study of patients with private insurance shows varying medical services for those diagnosed with opioid addiction or abuse based on where they live. The study was first highlighted in Kaiser Health News  and a white paper by Fair Health.

            The study draws attention to how states approach opioid dependency and treatment differently as well as the current consumption rates by population and other demographics. The University of Kansas Health System pain management experts say the national study further supports a survey of physicians by the Kansas Partnership for Pain Management.

“The opioid epidemic is really the tip of the iceberg for a chronic pain epidemic in America,” Dr. Talal Khan, chair of the Kansas Partnership for Pain and chair of anesthesiology at Kansas University Medical Center said. “100 million Americans suffer chronic pain which is more than the number of people with diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.” Dr. Khan says most people seek help with chronic pain from their primary care doctor. “Unfortunately, our health system does not equip front line physicians with enough knowledge to really understand and evaluate pain as well as offer other treatment options.”

The University of Kansas Health System pain specialists believe equipping doctors and patients with vital information about when and how to prescribe opioids as well as proven alternative therapies for addressing pain can help turn the tide on the national opioid epidemic where the stakes are high. 

“There is no science supporting the use of long term opioids as being beneficial to patients, but we are seeing success with non-opioid therapies,” Dr. Smith Manion, anesthesiologist at The University of Kansas Hospital said.  “The only way we are going to change a nation addicted to opioids is to combat it in with multi-modal management.”

Melanie Simpson, RN and coordinator of the nurse led pain management team at The University of Kansas Hospital agrees.  “We have to educate patients, doctors and the community much like we did to curb the over-prescribing on antibiotics.”

        Dr. Khan, Dr. Manion and nurse Simpson are part of a team of pain specialists who will begin teaching primary care physicians across Kansas about guidelines for prescribing opioids, how to recognize abuse and handle the tough conversations with patients demanding opioids.  The comments in the video explain more key concepts about overcoming opioid addiction and abuse.