65% of emergency department physicians surveyed underestimated how often they prescribed opioids, but prescriptions decreased after they saw their actual data, revealed researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
The year-long study, published this month in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine, focused on how doctors perceive themselves relative to their peers when it comes to prescribing opioids. Most felt they were restrained, but the results showed otherwise. "We surveyed 109 emergency medicine providers at four different hospital EDs," said study author Sean Michael, MD, MBA, assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. "We asked them to report their perceived opioid prescribing rates compared to their peers. Then we showed them where they actually were on that spectrum."
Some 65 percent of those surveyed prescribed more opioids that they thought they did. Michael and his team found participants discharged 119,428 patients and wrote 75,203 prescriptions, of which 15,124 (or about 20 percent) were for opioids over the course of the 12-month study. The researchers then monitored the doctors after they were shown their actual prescription rates.
Michael pointed out that this problem extends beyond emergency departments. In fact, only about 5-10 percent of all opioid prescriptions are generated by ED physicians."Despite making progress on the opioid epidemic, we can't assume providers are behaving optimally and have all the information they need to do what we are asking of them," Michael said. "Most believe they are doing the right thing, but we need to directly address this thinking to be sure they are not part of the problem."