Tapering opioids for chronic non-cancer pain patients using an EMR tool and academic detailing

Submitted by Dr. Kevin Samson

The 2017 Canadian Guidelines for Opioids for Chronic Non-Cancer Pain emphasized the importance of safely minimizing the dose of opioids that patients are being prescribed. The guidelines made it important for me as a primary care provider to reassess my population of patients on opioids and ensure that I was doing my best to implement the new recommendations accordingly. This presented a formidable challenge and led to the realization that it would be very useful to have an EMR tool to support this process.

In response, the East Wellington Family Health Team (FHT), the Guelph FHT, the eHealth Centre of Excellence (eCE), and TELUS Health partnered to create an Opioid EMR Toolbar (Figure 1) using content informed by the Guidelines and work done by the Centre for Effective Practice (CEP).

Figure 1. Opiod EMR Toolbar

The toolbar provided a practical and effective way to implement the new guidelines into my practice through the following capabilities:

The figure below illustrates the steps I took in using the toolbar to implement the new guidelines.

Figure 2. Steps used to systematically manage my population of patients on opioids.

During this process, I also found it very helpful to participate in Academic Detailing sessions provided by the CEP. These are one on one sessions in which an expert from the CEP met me at my office and reviewed key topics including:

  • Non-pharmacological and non-opioid options for the management of patients living with chronic non-cancer pain
  • Managing opioid therapy for patients living with chronic non-cancer pain
  • Managing care for patients living with opioid use disorder

Results

The toolbar gave me the information that I needed, when I needed it, provided individualized patient decision support, and saved me a lot of time on documentation. I was able to spend more time with my patients. They felt engaged and well informed.

Within nine months of the adoption of the toolbar I was able to safely taper the dose of opioids for a significant number of my patients and there was a statistically significant reduction in the overall MEQs I prescribed over this time period (p<0.05).

I really hope that others will find similar success in helping their patients manage their pain safely and effectively. The Guidelines have paved the way for us, and the Opioid Toolbar has proven to be an effective vehicle to help get us there.

Resources available

  • The Opioid Toolbar is now available to all users of Telus Practice Solutions EMR. The simplified version of the toolbar used for this quality improvement initiative is available through theeHealthCentre of Excellence for PS EMR (Oscar under development). eHealth coaching sessions are also available through the eCE (with Mainpro+ credits) for primary care providers across the Waterloo-Wellington Local Health Integration Network.
  • The Academic Detailing sessions are free-of-charge and free of commercial interest. Physicians can earn Mainpro+ credits for each AD session. More information and the process of signing up for a session is available on the Centre of Effective Practice website.

References:

Busse, J.W. (2017). The 2017 Canadian guideline for opioids for chronic non-cancer pain. Hamilton, ON: McMaster University.

Need help supporting your patients in managing their pain? Visit the Ontario Pain Management Resources for a coordinated program of tools from partner organizations across the province. 

What Digital Health Means to Primary Care

What do you think of when you hear the words digital health? Is it the latest medical health tracker app? Your electronic medical record? Robot doctors?  

Digital health includes all these tools, and many more. But the true essence of digital health – and the reason why it’s worth celebrating with its own Digital Health Week – is something much bigger than the technology itself.  

Digital health is a technology-led evolution aimed at empowering patients and clinicians. It allows us to better monitor, manage and improve our own health and well-being, while allowing clinicians to improve patient outcomes through more responsive technology and better use of patient data.  

In Canada and around the world, digital health is providing tremendous clinical value through improved  access to care for patients, reduced costs, cost avoidance, greater efficiencies, and better quality of care. 

The work we do at OntarioMD is guided by our aim to empower physician practices and enhance the care they and their teams provide patients using EMRs and digital health. We do this through focusing on innovation, and on forging strong relationships and collaborating with health care industry partners to offer products and services that deliver measurable value to the Ontario health care system.  By connecting clinicians with the right tools to meet their practice objectives and ensuring they understand how to effectively use those tools, we help them follow up faster with patients, ensure better coordination of care between all health care providers connected to a patient’s circle of care, reduce unnecessary hospital readmissions, lower wait times, and avoid administrative costs. 

Consider our award-winning Health Report Manager (HRM), for example.  Clinicians using an OntarioMD-certified EMR can use HRM to securely receive patient reports into their EMR from participating hospitals and specialty clinics. With HRM, primary care providers know when their patients get discharged from a hospital or specialty clinic, and all medical record and diagnostic imaging reports they need to ensure effective follow-up are transferred directly into the patient’s medical chart in their EMRs. This eliminates the need for mailed or faxed paper reports and time staff spend handling them.  Most importantly, it lets clinicians be more proactive and provide patients with the quality care they need, fast. 

We’re also helping clinicians use digital health to take action to combat Canada’s growing opioid crisis. According to Health Canada in 2017, there were 4,000 opioid related deaths, up 25% from the year before.  

Digital health offers the tools needed to better combat crises such as this. By tapping into the power of their EMR, clinicians can analyze their patient data to learning more about trends and demographics. Armed with this information, clinicians can identify those patients who are most at risk of opioid abuse, and monitor them to prevent addiction and overdoses.  

OntarioMD’s Peer Leaders and EMR Practice Enhancement Program (EPEP) staff provide clinicians with important hands-on support to help them optimize how they input and use EMR data. Our Peer Leaders and staff have helped primary care providers learn how to use their EMRs to quickly identify their patients taking opioids, the number of different drugs prescribed, and the length of time they’ve been taking the drugs. Clinicians can then create alerts within the EMR to monitor patients on high doses and create a narcotics contract between clinician and patient that can help reduce the risk of addiction and further harm by opioids.  

Whether you need help managing a high opioid risk population, or have other practice challenges and goals, OntarioMD Peer Leaders and staff are like a Geek Squad for clinicians. These clinical practice and technology experts can: 

  • Help you better understand your EMR’s functions and tools; 
  • Analyze your data entry and practice workflows, to improve the quality of patient data in your EMR;  
  • Proactively use EMR patient reminders, reports, population health informatics and more to improve your population health practices; 
  • Implement best data quality practices to access the most relevant patient information at the point of care 

Digital health has the power to improve patient outcomes and help us live longer and healthier lives. But like any technology, the impact depends on the user’s understanding of how to tap into its full potential. By working with patients, clinicians, health care stakeholders and technology vendors, OntarioMD is working to advance digital health care, for the benefit of clinicians and patients across Ontario and all of Canada.  

Keep up to date on digital health advances and our work by following OntarioMD on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn. Also, subscribe to our blog at www.ontariomd.blog and visit us online at www.ontariomd.ca for more info on all our products and services. If you have any questions or want to get connected to digital health products and services, please call us at 1-866-744-8668 or e-mail support@ontariomd.com.

EMR: Every Step Session Profile Minding Your MEQs: Optimizing your EMR for Safer Opioid Management

This post was contributed by Dr. Kevin Samson. 

OntarioMD’s EMR: Every Step Conference in Toronto on September 28, 2017 will feature 25 seminars designed to inspire and educate clinicians on how to get more benefits from their EMR.

In the coming weeks, we’ll highlight some of the sessions, which have been certified by the College of Family Physicians of Canada’s Ontario Chapter for up to 7.5 Mainpro+ credits. To register for the EMR: Every Step Conference and attend sessions, please register at https://www.ontariomd.ca/about-us/events/every-step-conference-toronto.

In Minding Your MEQs: Optimizing your EMR for Safer Opioid Management, Dr. Kevin Samson will look at how new and innovative EMR tools can help promote the safer and effective prescribing of opioids to patients with chronic non-cancer pain.

Each year more than 650,000 Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) eligible Ontarians are prescribed opioids. Today, prescription opioids are more likely to be found on the street than heroin, and opioids have become the drug of choice for teens. Opioids are responsible for more than 3,000 ER visits and more than 600 deaths each year.

Finding the time and expertise required to meet recommended prescribing requirements and provide optimal, individualized opioid treatment for patients with chronic non-cancer pain is a real challenge for physicians. But clinicians can tap into new tools to use their EMRs to optimize their opioid prescribing, and improve clinical outcomes for these patients.

These tools are presented in a toolbar which appears in the EMR, within the charts of patients who require opioid therapy. One important feature of the toolbar is that it displays the calculated morphine equivalents (MEQs) that the patient is on, and the display turns color to attract attention when the levels are above certain ranges. The toolbar also includes buttons representing each of the recommended requirements (pain condition diagnosis, risk screening, goal setting, informed consent, appropriateness of opioid(s) selected and dose, opioid effectiveness, and drug testing). If any of the requirements are missing or out of date for a particular patient, the corresponding buttons will change colour to provide clinicians with a user-friendly ‘at a glance’ view of the patient’s opioid management status. Clicking the buttons brings up standardized, evidence based tools used to manage the patient’s care. Additional buttons in the toolbar provide links to other related tools, references, handouts and patient report cards.

In this EMR: Every Step Conference session, Dr. Samson will share data and feedback from patients and physicians in the practices that have deployed the toolbar, he will explore the toolbar’s impact on the quality and completeness of opioid-related data in the users’ EMRs, and its impact on prescribing patterns.