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Variations in Opioid Prescribing Behavior by Physician Training

  • Author(s): Leventhal, Evan L.
  • Nathanson, Larry A.
  • Landry, Alden M.
  • et al.
Abstract

Introduction: Opioid abuse has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. Patients often present to the emergency department (ED) with painful conditions seeking analgesic relief. While there is known variability in the prescribing behaviors of emergency physicians, it is unknown if there are differences in these behaviors based on training level or by resident specialty.

Methods: This is a retrospective chart review of ED visits from a single, tertiary-care academic hospital over a single academic year (2014-2015), examining the amount of opioid pain medication prescribed. We compared morphine milligram equivalents (MME) between provider specialty and level of training (emergency medicine [EM] attending physicians, EM residents in training, and non-EM residents in training).

Results: We reviewed 55,999 total ED visits, of which 4,431 (7.9%) resulted in discharge with a prescription opioid medication. Residents in a non-EM training program prescribed higher amounts of opioid medication (108 MME, interquartile ratio [IQR] 75-150) than EM attendings (90 MME, lQR 75-120), who prescribed more than residents in an EM training program (75 MME, IQR 60-113) (p<0.01).

Conclusion: In an ED setting, variability exists in prescribing patterns with non-EM residents prescribing larger amounts of opioids in the acute setting. EM attendings should closely monitor for both over- and under-prescribing of analgesic medications.

 

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