The number of painkiller prescriptions for patients visiting the emergency departments in the United States has seen a dramatic increase in recent times even though the total number of patients visiting ERs has seen only a modest increase, a new study conducted by researchers at George Washington University.
The researchers found that the total percentage of patients visiting emergency departments who were prescribed painkillers rose from 20.8 percent to 31 percent between 2001 and 2010 even though the total percentage of visits for painful conditions rose by just four percent, from 47.1 percent to 51.1 percent, during the same period.
The researchers said that one of the reasons for such a sharp increase on painkiller prescriptions could be due to the ER staff being given incentivized pay on how many patients express satisfaction with their experience.
"Emergency department providers are often caught in a difficult position because some have their pay incentivized based on how patients report their satisfaction with their experience. The intention is always to provide appropriate pain relief, but many patients have come to expect opioids. We need to carefully consider how to balance these issues when it comes to national policy, particularly local and national payment policies, in this country", co-author of the study, Dr Jesse Pines said.