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with reductions in outpatient prescribing
of risky opioid regimens.
30 VA initiatives
have successfully shown that patient education programs offer easily accessible
and useful information for veterans and
patients to more safely use prescription
opioids. Furthermore, facilitating patient
access to educational materials that are
easy to understand increases the likelihood that patients will use opioids safely.
The Opioid Safety Initiative Toolkit,
developed by a panel of multidisciplinary
experts and available from the VA, provides a clear explanation of the pathway
between various care options and health
outcomes while rating both the quality of
the evidence and the strength of the recommendation. These guidelines provide
health care providers with a framework to
evaluate, treat, and manage the individual needs and preferences of patients with
chronic pain who are on or are being considered for long-term opioid treatment.
The Opioid Safety Initiative Toolkit is
accessible online and offers guidelines for
both the provider and the patient.
Given the mounting body of research
detailing the lack of benefit and potential harm of long-term opioid therapy, it
is imperative that the surgeon strive to
educate patients about the correct use of
these drugs. Building rapport to create
a dynamic and open physician-patient
relationship and keeping lines of communication open to discuss side effects,
efficacy, and tapering regimens is crucial
to prescribing opioids safely. Providing
accessible educational materials to patients
regarding prescriptions, as well as using
a multidisciplinary approach to prescribe
and, ultimately, taper opioid medications,
is critical to optimizing pain management
in the postoperative period. ♦